Autobiographical Memory and the Subjective Experience of Time

In: Timing & Time Perception
Steve M. J. Janssen School of Psychology, Nottingham University – Malaysia Campus, Jalan Broga, 43500 Semenyih, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
School of Psychology, Flinders University, Australia

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Many people believe that life appears to speed up as they become older. However, age differences are only found in studies in which participants compare recent with remote time passage. They are not found in studies in which younger participants’ impressions of recent time passage are compared to older participants’ impressions of recent time passage. Approaching the phenomenon as a memory issue allows for the discrepancy between these findings. In this study, two memory accounts for the phenomenon were examined. Whereas the results of the first experiment did not support the account that attributes the phenomenon to the difficulty with which events are retrieved from different lifetime periods, the results of the second experiment supported the account that attributes the phenomenon to the perceived time pressure in different lifetime periods. People are able to recall many recent instances in which they were very busy, had to rush, and did not have time to complete things, but these mundane and everyday events are often forgotten from more remote lifetime periods. People who have the impression that they are currently experiencing more time pressure than they were experiencing in the past will have the feeling that time has recently passed more quickly for them than time had in the past.

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