Asked by: Ted Leech, Manchester
It may simply be a matter of perspective. After all, one year to a five-year-old is a significant portion of their lifetime to date, yet to a 60-year-old it is just a tiny fraction. Other experts say it has more to do with how, the older we get, the more familiar life becomes, and the more we ‘chunk’ our experiences into basic categories like ‘work’, ‘commuting’, ‘shopping’ and ‘home life’.
One study found that prompting people to categorise the previous year in this way led them to feel that it had passed more quickly. The good news is that this also points to an antidote – being mindful and savouring each experience as if it were new ought to trigger the sensation of time passing more slowly.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.