60-Second Mind

The Slow Down of Time in Crisis

Recent research from the Baylor College of Medicine tackles the fascinating experience we have of time slowing down during a terrifying event, like a car accident. Does our brain track time differently during crisis? They say no, it's more about a trick of memory.

When a car skids on black ice, or when the Tiffany vase is in free fall to the marble floor, or when you watch the north tower go up in flames...time appears to go in slow motion.
We’d swear our brains perceive time differently during crisis, but is it true?
Scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine say no… perception remains the same, whether we’re lounging by the fireside or being attacked by a bison.
They had 20 volunteers free fall 150 feet into a net.
To test for visual distortion caused by slowed perception of a terrifying fall, researchers strapped chronometers onto subjects’ wrists and flashed numbers too fast to read.
They theorized, that if we actually see more, due to slowed time, in the midst of disaster, then subjects should be able to read the numbers.  But alas they could not.
During a frightening event the amygdala kicks in, and it lays down an extra set of memories. The more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took.
So while we’d bet our life that time appears to expand in our immediate experience of a scary event – really we’re being tricked by the immediate memory of that event.
Wow, pretty trippy.

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