How our internal clock ticks
Sometimes the hours fly by, sometimes they drag on like chewing gum. Why? How long a situation appears to us depends above all on our expectations.
We all know it: the water in the pot doesn't boil until you've stopped waiting for it, and a fun day of vacation is over as soon as it starts. On the clock, the hands move in regular steps from one minute to the next. But we experience time as rather uneven. Like an accordion, it seems to expand and contract according to how we're feeling, what we're experiencing, and what we're focusing on.
"Everyone knows the saying 'Time flies when you're having fun,'" says cognitive neuroscientist Samuel Gershman of Harvard University in Cambridge."But it's not that easy." It all depends on how much pleasure you expected beforehand.
There isn't just a clock in our brain that sometimes runs faster and sometimes slower in the background. Different brain regions have their own timekeepers. They interact with each other and change from one situation to the next.
As decades of research suggest, the brain messenger substance dopamine has a decisive influence on our perception of time…