Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tachy Psyche Effect

From wikipedia:
Tachypsychia is a neurological condition that distorts the perception of time, usually induced by physical exertion, drug use, or a traumatic event. It is sometimes referred to by martial arts instructors and self defense experts as the Tachy Psyche effect. For someone affected by tachypsychia, time perceived by the individual either lengthens, making events appear to slow down, or contracts, objects appearing as moving in a speeding blur. It is believed that tachypsychia is induced by a combination of high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, usually during periods of great physical stress and/or in violent confrontation.

A somewhat contrasting experience is the feeling of time flying as you grow older. When we were younger, that history lecture seemed to take eternity. Every school year, the wait for summer, would seem more like 10 years. Is this because of some unknown emotional trauma we were experiencing? I dont know about you, but I was definitely not taking drugs as a kid, 
or going through any major physical stress or violent confrontations for that matter.

Does this ring a familiar bell? Ahh...Time dilation! As predicted by Lorentz transformation (warning: some math stuff) in Einstein's special relativity. When you are 5 years old an hour is a LONG time. A week is almost eternity. At 20 an hour doesn't seem as long as it used to. I'm now 26 and time is flying by. Years are clicking off the way weeks seemed to when I was 5-10..

It doesn't bode well as if you extrapolate this phenomenon out to the age of 70 then the last decade of your life will go by in what seems like a month.

I attribute this effect to the amount of time your brain has experienced. When you are 5 years old, an hour or a day is a much larger portion of the total time frame your brain has to relate to than when you're 20, 30, or 70.

at age 5, 1 year = 1/5 of your life
at age 15, 1 year = 1/15 of your life
at age 40, 1 year = 1/40 of your life
and in our heads we measure time relative to our lives.
In relation to your brain's total time reference, an hour is much more significant at age 5.

Another theory thrown around is that the human perception of Time is a subjective experience. With training, one can either speed up or slow down how fast things seem to be going. What usually happens is that the boring minutes seem to drag, and the pleasurable moments pass too quickly. Certain methods in hypnosis have been employed to switch this around, so that boring hours can seem to pass in minutes, and the good times seem to last forever.

Now that explains why my time flies when I am on a date with someone special, but it crawls to a halt when I am waiting for the next one!