Asked by: Amanda Lewis, Shrewsbury
This is because our estimates of time depend on how much we remember, and more memories are laid down in an emergency. Experiments have investigated this. In one case volunteers fell back into a net from 50m, experiencing terrifying freefall for three seconds. They said they seemed to be moving in slow-motion, and estimated the fall had taken between four and six seconds, rather than three.
To find out whether they were really experiencing events more slowly they were given a wristwatch displaying random numbers flickering just too fast to see. During the fall they could not see the numbers any more clearly, so time doesn’t really slow down. They just remember it as though it did, probably because the amygdala, a part of the brain implicated in fear, is highly active and affects the way memories are made.