Time Flies

Clock with minutes passing by fast

Just one more game of Mahjong Solitaire. . . What — it’s been six hours?!?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Does time REALLY fly when you’re having fun? Or does it just SEEM that way?

Masamichi Hayashi and Richard Ivry from UC Berkeley have some quick answers!

Nearly twenty young adults were shown either a circle or an empty screen for random lengths of time. They then estimated how long they saw the image. Meanwhile, their brains were scanned with an MRI.

Results? When shown a picture for shorter times, participants OVERESTIMATED how long they saw it. Three seconds felt like TEN! This also LIT UP the parietal cortex — the empathy part of their brains.

When the image lasted longer, the subjects UNDERESTIMATED the time. And when this happened, their brains became less active!

Researchers think the parietal cortex affects the way we experience time. It might be why our favorite binge activities seem to end in a heartbeat…while work seems eternal!

So next time you think your Zoom meeting’s taking FOREVER….just turn on Animal Crossing. Sound off.

Hayashi, M. J., & Ivry, R. B. (2020). Duration Selectivity in Right Parietal Cortex Reflects the Subjective Experience of Time. Journal of Neuroscience, 40(40), 7749–7758. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0078-20.2020