Time Warped | Claudia Hammond

Summary of: Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception
By: Claudia Hammond


Embark on a fascinating journey through the mysteries of time perception with Claudia Hammond’s ‘Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception’. Discover how factors such as emotions, memory, body temperature, and social aspects influence the way we experience the passage of time. Throughout this summary, you will find intriguing experiments and anecdotes that help to explain why time appears to drag on during certain moments while it seems to fly by during others. By delving into the complex, captivating world of time perception, this book summary offers an enlightening look at the intricate relationship between our brains, our bodies, and the ever-fleeting nature of time.

The Perception of Time

Our perception of time is not constant. Emotions, memory, and even body temperature can “warp” our sense of time. Fear causes us to process information more thoroughly, making time seem slower. Making more memories can also make time seem to pass slowly. Even changes in body temperature can affect our perception of time.

Societal Rules of Time

In every society, there are different rules and conventions that determine what is considered acceptable regarding punctuality. These rules provide a sense of security and agreement on what is expected. However, when visiting a country with different established rules, difficulties can arise. The social aspects of time not only affect how we manage it but can also influence our perception of time passing. In a laboratory study, participants who experienced social rejection perceived time to pass more slowly.

The Faults of Our Memories

Our memories can be faulty, as evidenced by our difficulty in accurately recalling time. We often remember significant events more vividly, while mundane ones are easily forgotten. The events we contemplate the most are the ones we remember the most accurately. Additionally, our memories are heavily influenced by our experiences during the “reminiscence bump,” between the ages of 15 and 25, when we experience many first-time events that are easier to recall.

The Mysterious Inner Biological Clock

Our body’s inner biological clock governs our daily routines but relies on external cues to stay in sync with societal timing. This clock was tested in an underground experiment by Michel Siffre, resulting in his mealtimes and sleep repeating whenever it felt “right” causing him to experience time passing much faster than he thought. This and other experiments concluded that our inner clock’s cycle of sleep and active periods lasts for 24 hours and 31 minutes. In everyday life, this cycle is corrected by daylight. When deprived of daylight’s stimulation, the internal clock takes control, making time lose meaning.

Unraveling the Mystery of Perception of Time

Have you ever felt like time is passing too slowly or too quickly? It turns out, our perception of time is influenced by various factors such as the brain’s frontal lobe, dopamine levels, and proprioception. The frontal lobe is responsible for creating and storing memories, developing ideas, and determining our perception of time. Dopamine regulates our inner clock, and when levels increase, time appears to pass more quickly. Proprioception, the awareness of the body’s position and movement, also plays a key role in our perception of time. Without it, experiments have shown that time is perceived as passing more slowly.

The Science Behind Our Perception of Time

Our perception of time is not constant; it varies depending on our attention level. The more we focus on something, the slower time seems to run. When we are bored, time seems to drag, and unexpected events appear to last longer. This time warp is caused by the energy expended by the brain, according to neuroscientist David Eagleman. The more energy we use, the longer the event seems to be. This is why new experiences seem to last longer; they require more energy to be processed.

Time Perception and Synesthesia

Around 20 percent of people “see” time in a visual manner, from left to right. This experience is an example of synesthesia, a blending of senses. In an experiment, researchers asked participants to respond to a sequence of words, some in red, others in blue. The study found that people who envision time as running from left to right react differently than others when the names of months appear. If a later month appears in blue, these participants will respond much faster with their right hand, while an earlier month in red causes a more immediate response with their left hand. Although not everyone sees time in this way, humans represent time in their minds in individual manners. For instance, the phrase “Next Wednesday’s meeting has had to be moved forward by two days. On what day is the meeting happening now?” elicits distinct responses. Some individuals may visualize themselves moving forward to Friday, while others “see” time moving towards them to Monday.

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