Steve M. J. Janssen

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.

Yee Mun Lee and Steve M. J. Janssen

Because the general population may be familiar with the phenomenon that life appears to speed up as people become older, participants’ preconceptions may affect how they answer questionnaires about the subjective experience of time. To be able to account for these preconceptions in future research, we assessed laypeople’s beliefs about the phenomenon. Participants (N = 313) were asked whether they were familiar with the phenomenon, whether they experienced the phenomenon themselves, and what they thought that the cause or causes of the phenomenon might be. More than 80% of the participants had read or heard about the phenomenon prior to the study, suggesting that the phenomenon is well known among the general population. Furthermore, although most participants experienced the phenomenon themselves, familiarity with the phenomenon affected whether they felt that life appeared to be speeding up and whether time passed fast for them. Familiarity also affected whether participants attributed the phenomenon to changes in objective or subjective time but not the endorsement of the phenomenon’s causes. Finally, participants also had preconceptions about what time periods represent ‘the present’ and ‘the past’. Whereas nearly all participants considered the past to have lasted more than one year, two-third of the participants felt that the present represented a period less than one year.