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

In: Timing & Time Perception
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  • 1 Department of Psychology, Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany
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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.

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