For many people, 2022 went by in a blink ― doesn’t it feel like it was just January? But for others, especially children, last year’s holidays may seem like eons ago.
There’s a reason why you may feel like the years moved slowly when you were a kid, but zoom by now. Experts say our perception of time greatly changes as we age, which makes certain periods feel like they go by quickly.
“Our perception of days, weeks, years and that kind of time seems to be especially influenced by our perspective: Are we in the moment experiencing it, or are we looking backward on time?” said Cindy Lustig, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
She added that the perception of time is also influenced by memory and how much you’ve experienced. For an 8-year-old, a week is a big portion of their life. For an 80-year-old, a week is a much smaller portion of their life, which contributes to the feeling that it went by quickly.
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This is for a number of reasons. For the 80-year-old, their life probably doesn’t look too different than it did when they were 78 or 79, “so, in that case, they’re looking back on fewer events,” Lustig said. “When you’re looking back, the less rich your representation is, the more it’s going to seem like the time went by quickly.”
In other words, our brains lump time together when the days or weeks are similar. So for an 80-year-old who largely does the same thing every day, the year is going to blend together in their mind and feel like it went by quickly.
The new and exciting things in a day are what make the days and months feel different, and thus set them apart in our minds.