Has it really Been that Long? Why Time Seems to Speed up with Age

in Timing & Time Perception
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The impression that time speeds up with age is a well known phenomenon. In the literature, a number of theories on this age effect exists, but results of the respective studies are inconclusive, and even somewhat paradoxical: The age effect occurred only when speed of time was judged for periods in the past. However, usually no difference was found when comparing present time perception between participants in different age groups. Our investigation had two aims: To begin, we tried to solve the riddle of this paradox. We contend that a context of comparison is needed for the age effect to occur, that is, a comparison of present time perception with the perception in previous life periods. The second aim was to compare potential causes of the age effect. Participants in a large sample (n = 517) covering a wide age range (20–80 years) provided time judgments and its potential predictors for both current and previous life periods. No age effect was found for speed of time in current life if only age was used as a predictor. If, however, other factors were statistically controlled for, a weak but noticeable age effect was found. Consistent with prior results, a clear age effect was obtained when participants compared different life periods retrospectively. Perceived time pressure and the number of routines are important factors of time perception both in current and previous life periods. A decreasing frequency of new life experiences seems to explain only the age effect of retrospective time perception.

Has it really Been that Long? Why Time Seems to Speed up with Age

in Timing & Time Perception

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Figures

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    Speed of time in the current life situation. Means of the perceived speed of time of the participants’ current life situation; participants are separated into age groups. The error bars represent standard errors.

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    Experienced duration of the participants’ last five years. Means of the experienced duration of the participant’s last five years; participants are separated into age groups. The error bars represent standard errors.

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    Speed of time over previous life periods. Means of perceived speed of time over the participants’ previous life periods in ten-year steps; participants are separated into age groups. The error bars represent standard errors.

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    Experienced duration of previous life periods. Means of experienced duration of previous life periods in ten-year steps; participants are separated into age groups. The error bars represent standard errors.

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