Psychology of Time

James Neill

Last updated:
07 Feb 2004

Although we tend to measure time exactly in the modern age, this exactness is focused on physical time and less on subjective, personal time. 

Psychologically, time can seem to take forever or be over before we know it.  The past only exists as memory.  The future is only imagination.  So, there is really only the present, psychologically-speaking.

This is illustrated in Total Recall, a famous Schwarzenegger movie.  A character goes into a travel agent of the future, selects the holiday he wants to go on for 2 weeks, then sits down in a chair and they implant the memory in his brain.  He gets up and walks out minutes later with, psychologically speaking, a 2 week holiday in his head.

So, what is time?  It is both a psychological construction which we use to interpret our world and there is a mathematical/physics kind of time, the most basic estimate of which is the data found on our watches and clocks.

For more information, I recommend Encyclopedia.com's section on "Psychology of Time"...or this anthropology course tutorial on time.

Related link: "Faster: The acceleration of just about everything" by James Gleik

Related link: The Death Clock: enter your age, weight, etc.  and this site will predict your date of death and how many seconds are left in your life!