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Why Time Passing Can Seem Like Torture

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Why some moments can sometimes painfully drag on is still a mystery to brain scientists. But a recent study found some neurons seem to develop expectations that can make time pass more slowly.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, scientists identified channels of neurons that adapt to perceive certain lengths of time. The researchers exposed study subjects to a series of beeps and flashes of the same duration. When they increased the duration just slightly, the subjects perceived that the signals were way longer than they actually were.


When the beeps and flashes were significantly longer, the subjects were better at predicting the duration.

The study seems to reinforce the idea that expectations often lead to disappointment and frustration. It does not, however, explain why an hour-long massage always seems too short.


Along those lines, a researcher named David Eagleman looks at how to slow time down when it feels like the days are flying by too fast. One suggestion: keep new experiences in your life. Familiar information is easy for our brains to process, and the harder we make our brains work the slower time seems to pass.

[Wired Science, Image: Shutterstock]

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