Do you remember when you were 8 and your 3 month summer break from school felt like 3 years? I do too. It’s a little different now. Summer seems to fly by these days. Heck, as I get older, every year seems to go by faster.
Why is that?
Some research suggests that as we get older, we experience time differently than we used to. Some believe that our perception of time begins to accelerate over time, a result of reduced dopamine production in the brain impacting our internal clocks. Some also believe that as we age, we have fewer emotionally arousing experiences, like first kisses, first vacations, first days of school, etc.
This reduction in emotional intensity causes us to experience what’s called habitual hypothesis. Simply put: we’re on autopilot much more often. Daily commute, work, making dinner, going to church; we all just kind of lurch through the motions with adulthood, not really thinking too hard, and the days fly by as a result.
There’s also a theory called Forward Telescoping where we consider our most important moments as being behind us, like the passing of our parents, the births of our children, graduating from college, etc, and upon realizing that your 10 year college reunion is in May, you feel like the last 10 years barely even happened. It felt like maybe one year looking back.
Then of course there’s Paul Janet’s Proportional Theory that suggests that as we get older, each period of time occupies a smaller fraction of the whole lifetime.
“The apparent length of an interval at a given epoch of a man’s life is proportional to the total length of the life itself,” writes William James. “A child of 10 feels a year as 1/10 of his whole life – a man of 50 as 1/50, the whole life meanwhile apparently preserving a constant length.”