science | November 20, 2012

David Eagleman: Novelty Can Change Your Perception of Time [VIDEO]

"Why does time speed up as you grow older?" science speaker David Eagleman asks in a new talk. "It's because when you're a kid you're trying to figure out the rules of the world," he explains, "and everything is novel to you." However, as you grow up and get older, you have already figured out a lot of the patterns and practices of the world. While Eagleman explains that this knowledge is advantageous for operating in the world, it seems to make time move by faster. When you look back on a time period as an adult, it seems to have flown by because you don't have a great deal of new experiences to draw from. Because you aren't making new memories when you do the same thing over and over, your mind feels as though no time at all has passed and time feels as though it has sped up. "How we estimate duration has a lot to do with how much memory we've laid down; how much footage we have to draw from," he explains.

In his talk, Eagleman said that seeking novelty can help you feel as if time is moving slower and you are living longer. It won't actually make you live longer, he explains jokingly, but processing new memories and doing new things can have the effect of slowing down time. "Make sure you stretch your mental landscape by putting yourself in situations where you are learning something new," he advises. Take a new route home from work or rearrange your desk when you get home, he says, and this formation of new memories will change your perception of time. In this speech, and others like it, the Guggenheim Fellow provides audiences with eye-opening ideas about the way that their brains function. Eagleman is a renowned neuroscientist and author of Incognito, Live-Wired, and Wednesday is Indigo Blue. He also regularly contributes to The New York Times, Wired, Discover, Slate, and New Scientist. Whether it's in writing or on stage, he frequently changes perceptions on the human mind and helps us understand why we do the things we do.