Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Book: Time Warped by Claudia Hammond




Time Warped is a well written investigation into our changing perception of time. See below for a bunch of quotes and notes from the book.

*** 1/2

Quotes and notes

Our perceived length of time increases with emotional states like fear, misery, rejection, depression and boredom. In these states, past and present become central and the future becomes difficult to imagine. Also, time passes slowly the more a person is deprived of their senses. In contrast, time speeds up when we are immersed in flow activities, when we experienced excitement and pressure (e.g. exams). Pliny the Younger (AD 105) is quoted writing:

"The happier the time, the shorter it seems."

A hummingbird is able to tell exactly when twenty minutes has passed, which is just enough time for plants to refill their nectar stores before other animals can get at it.

Humans have an internal body clock that controls our 24 hour circadian rythms, but what about our judgement of seconds, minutes and hours? Neuroscientists have competing theories for how we count these frerquencies of time - various parts of the brain seem to be involved (cerebellum, frontal lobe, basal ganglia).

Changes in dopamine seem to alter a person's sense of how much time has passed. It also seems linked to different emotional states e.g heighted fear seems to stretch time.

Holiday paradox - holidays pass fast on a day by day basis, but they seem stretched out in retrospect: this is linked to the variety of novel experiences vs routine day at the office (monotony compresses the years). We could try to recreate this at work and daily life, by adding some novelty and being mindful, instead of spending long periods on autopilot. Be wary though: you can have too much novelty.

"We don't remember days, we remember events" - Cesar Pavese (Italian poet)

Some people view time as something that passes through them, versus as them passing through time.

Forgetting the future: as well as forgetting the past, some amnesiacs cannot project themselves into the future.

Memory is a reconstructive process, not a linear tape recording.

Thinking about the future seems to be the brains default mode - when meditating, thoughts about the future tend to flow into the conscious mind. Our cognitive processes favour the extreme and the most recent, which makes us poorly equipped at predicting how we will feel in the future.

We always think we will have more time in the future, which leads to us over-committing to activities, making us feel busy and stretched.

There is never enough time in the day and there never will be - when time has become available in previous decades we have filled it by watching tv. People who tend to spend a lot of their time racing to do everything they need or want tend to, feel that time is slipping them by. Some productivity tips may help, but they forever wish they could cram more in.

Humans are plagued by the planning fallacy: we set unrealistic deadlines, failing to recognise that life is filled with interruptions, things going wrong, obligations, responsibilities, things to fix and improve.

Also, we need to be wary of finally having the metaphorical retirement chateaux in France finally built - there is a risk we will become bored with nothing to do.

Victor Frankl: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."

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