Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Time Flies When You’re Having Phone

Credit: alphaspirit/adobe

Credit: alphaspirit/adobe

By Aoife McLoughlin

Have modern communications technologies increased the pace of life or merely affected our ability to judge how much time has passed?

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It’s impossible not to notice that time can appear to stall in some circumstances but fly by in others. A few hours at work on a Friday afternoon can feel infinitely longer to us than a few hours spent socialising with friends on a Saturday afternoon.

Research has implicated many different factors that impact on our sense of time, causing us to overestimate or underestimate how much time has passed. For example, body temperature, heart rate, complexity of task, age, size of the stimulus, intensity of the stimulus, alcohol and the emotion of the situation have been shown at various times to impact on our ability to accurately judge the passage of time.

However, until recently there has been very little quantitative research looking from a psychological perspective at the impact of “modern life” on our experience of time. This seems unusual as areas such as philosophy, anthropology and sociology have long since highlighted links between modernisation and time pressure.

Within sociology it’s been observed that the pace of life has increased with modernisation. In his book Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, German historian Reinhart Koselleck claimed that individuals as far back as the French Revolution complained of the speed of modern living, and that in 1877 fellow historians had noted high speed and the pressure it put on life as the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.