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Time is an illusion. We believe time continues at a steady pace, unvarying, just as the clock ticks at equal intervals.  However, in the human mind, time is constantly fluctuating, seeming to speed by at some points and stand still at others. As explored in Claudia Murray’s “Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception,” the experience of time is literally developed in our minds. Because time warps so much mentally, both internal and external factors have been proven to alter our sense of time.The term “sense of time” as Ph.D Marc Wittmann points out, is illogical, as “in contrast to our other senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, there is no dedicated sense organ for the passage of time.” He also believes that “time slows as a person becomes more aware of themselves,” which could intersect with other time warps. Have you ever been so bored, it feels like time drags by? According to William James, who was a prominent psychologist in the 1800’s, boredom takes place when one ‘grows attentive to the passage of time itself.’ A quite minute in which a person closes their eyes will pass much slower than one in which they are active. We will ourselves test this theory with music as the stimulus. Emotions, especially strong ones, can also affect our senses of time. Fear is one of these altering emotions. In a recent study, some subjects were told to view a series of serious faces and guess the time that had passed, and others to view frightened faces. The participants who had viewed the scared faces overestimated the time while the others were much more on track. Likewise, when people with spider phobias viewed spiders for 45 seconds, they overestimated the time viewing them. The results of these experiments suggest that fear seems to makes time seem to pass more quickly This leads to the question of why the time warped- was it an illusion, due to external change? or was the brain speeding up, causing time to seem to pass slowly? In other words, does adrenaline make the brain speed up, or merely create the illusion that it does? To find out, a group of researchers from the University of Texas collaborated with the Zero Gravity Amusement Park, and recruited volunteers to ride the Suspended Catch Air Device. Participants were harnessed, then dropped from a 150 foot tower, where they fell for 2.5 seconds into a net- a terrifying free fall. Participants were given a device, a “perceptual chronometer.” Essentially, it was a wrist mounted device that flashed numbers faster than the human mind can perceive- under ordinary circumstances. If fear caused the brain to actually slow down time, the subjects should have been able to perceive it. In the end, the afraid subjects saw a blur, proving that the seemingly lengthened time was an illusion. In a similar way, rejection can alter a person’s time perception. In one study, 6 volunteers were summoned, then put in a room together, where they played ice breaking games. Eventually, each was asked to write the names of two others they want in “their group.” Next, three were taken into separate rooms, where they were informed ‘no one put them down as someone they would like to work with.’ and that ‘this has never happened before, so they will work alone.’ As predicted, this made those participants feel badly, rejected. The other three were likewise taken into separate rooms- except they were told everyone in the group wrote them down, so they were to work alone. Finally, each of the six participants were asked how long the 40 second test took. This experiment may seem cruel, but the results were interesting. The “popular” people estimated the test as an average of 42.5 seconds, while the “rejected” estimated the 40 seconds to be 63.6 seconds. These 20 seconds are very notable, as they demonstrate that rejection seems to slow down time in a person’s mind, similar to fear. This breakthrough on rejection can lead to much more serious instances, involving depression and suicide, as studied by Roy Baumeister. Baumeister realized the importance that time perception can play in understanding depression. He acknowledged that suicidal people are in a severe mental state in which their time perception is distorted, warped. Matthew Broome, a British psychiatrist, concluded in a series of experiments that people that are depressed feel that time is going by twice as fast as those who aren’t depressed. Despite the link, it is still unclear if time seemingly slowing is a result of depression, or a cause. However, it has been used as an further diagnostic means for depression. As an overview, time perception can be affected by many things- boredom, fear, rejection, and even depression. However, it is just an illusion. So, next time the time speeds by, or the clock seems to literally slow down, remember- it’s all in your head!

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