A new book "delves into scores of experiments on how we track the seconds, hours, months and decades," reports Jascha Hoffman in The New York Times (8/6/13). Written by Claudia Hammond, "a British radio journalist and psychology lecturer," Time Warped "finds distortions and paradoxes, revealing the persistent ‘capriciousness, strangeness and mutability’ of time as we sense it." Among the findings are that "cold can make the seconds tick faster, while heat can slow them down … Sadness can lead to a deceleration of time, and so can fear."
Memory plays tricks with time – an observation dating back to 1890, when psychologist William James noted that "a tract of time empty of experiences seems long in passing, but in retrospect short." In 1962, a French explorer shut "himself into a cavern to study the effects of isolation … After losing himself in endless hours listening to Beethoven and feeding a pet spider, he was astonished to learn that the eight-week experiment was over in what felt like little more than a month." A possible explanation is that we "gauge passing time by the number of new memories formed."
This may also explain why time seems to pass more quickly as we grow older. Some say this is because "our internal clocks naturally slow as we age, or that every minute represents a smaller fraction of our life span." But Claudia "argues that the real reason … is that a high concentration of strong memories occur in the teens and 20s," which form a benchmark of sorts. "As new memories become sparser, later life seems brief compared with our eventful youth, giving the illusion that time has sped up." To slow things down, Claudia suggests "seeking out a novelty-rich lifestyle" and more memorable activities.