If you are over 20, it is very likely that this has happened to you several times: you remember an event that you remember very well and you realize that it happened 10 years ago … even more!
This also happens when you’ve decided to see when a TV series you’ve been following since its inception appeared, or when it was the premiere of a movie that stood out for you, or even when you realize that the actor or the actress who played a child the role in an audiovisual fiction can no longer even be considered too young.
And even between 7 and 15 years old, everything seemed to go very slowly. Plus, you’ll probably want to go a year older and get closer and closer to the “old people,” and the wait will be forever for you.
How time passes! Step onto the temporary accelerator
Of course, one thing is clear: time flies just as fast for everyone, it doesn’t stop for some and it doesn’t speed up for others (at least if we stay on this planet). However, the perception of this time if it changes, and a lot.
This was confirmed in 2005 by Sandra Lenhoff and Marc Wittmann, two researchers from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Their research consisted of taking a series of surveys to 499 people aged 14 to 94 and asking them to rate how “fast” they felt time was passing over a period of time.
When the time frame was a few days or weeks, everyone similarly thought about how fast that season had passed, but when the time frame was larger (years), they found that people tended to give it more speed to pass the time with age.
Specifically, people over the age of 40 felt that they felt the sluggishness of time during childhood and how it accelerated slightly during adolescence to reach high speeds in adulthood.
Why does this psychological effect occur?
It is not known what is the trigger for this phenomenon, but a very reasonable explanation has been offered which has to do with the amount of time references that are available in our memory when we assess our life trajectory in retrospect.
This explanation is based on a well-documented fact: more memories accumulate in the first years of life than in a similar period in adulthood. In other words, the amount of memories of what happened between ages 8 and 12 tends to be much greater than the amount of memories of what happened to us between ages 30 and 35, for example.
This could be due, on the one hand, to the fact that our brains are more plastic (i.e. more sensitive to stimuli) during our childhood and adolescence, which allows us to learn a lot of things quickly and along with what we are more likely to stay in our memory.
On the other hand, it could also be explained by a very simple fact. Many of the most relevant vital events accumulate early in our lives: The start of school and high school, the first time you meet friends that you will keep for a long time, the moment when you enter adulthood, your first romantic experiences, etc.
When memory has nothing to remember
So on the one hand we know that the brain is very sensitive to the environment, and on the other hand we assume that in the first two decades of life a lot of new and exciting things are happening. To this we must add an important fact: memory seems to preserve memories of new and enriching experiences well, not to mention those which are familiar and do not elicit such a strong emotional response.
All of the above means that we have a lot more time references located in the beginning of our life than in the second half of it., Which may give the impression that more time has passed.
It seems that, if in the past year we do not remember that something particularly remarkable happened, we are descending faster and faster on an ice rink, because in the absence of temporary references stored in our memory , we tend to think that this time frame was much shorter than it was. In this way, we can devote more resources to processing information about vital stages in which really interesting things have happened.
It can be cruel, however after all our nervous system is not built to give us an objective view of time and space.