Thursday 27 December 2018

Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception, Claudia Hammond

Hammond’s accessible pop-psychology book forces the reader to think about time differently. We’ve all experienced the sensation that time goes faster when we’re having fun and slows down when bored but this book will have you questioning how you visualise time, what external factors help us to estimate the passage of time, and how you’d react in some of the experiments detailed. It’s an excellent combination of anecdotal evidence and summaries of psychological experiments carried out over the years. At times a tad repetitive it will nonetheless have you pondering questions you’ve never thought of before.

There’s tales of couples becoming engaged on a first date, researchers living in isolation in a dark cave for months to see how well they can still estimate time, and those who try so hard to document their entire lives that you can’t help but think they’re missing out on really living. One recurring question is why does time seem to speed up as we age. Hammond dispels some common theories and demonstrates how it is a combination of factors. She talks of the reminiscence bump, usually in our late teens and early twenties when we are forming our identities. The memories from this period are strongest, meaning they are able to reinforce that identity. The creation of new memories makes time feel fast while you're living it but when we look back feels far more expansive. The more routine our lives become the quicker it seems to pass in retrospect as we have less defining moments.

A thoroughly fascinating book that’s easy to read and even comes with a self-help section of sorts in the final chapters offering advice on how to adjust your approach to time to feel as though you’ve lived a full life and not fall into the common misconception that you’ll have more time in the future.

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