Has this happened to you?

You call your dentist to make an appointment for your annual checkup, and find you haven’t seen him since April 2019.

You’re dressing for a meeting when you suddenly realize you’ve been to it two days ago.

You find yourself checking the calendar because you can’t remember the day of the week, and then you realize you also don’t know what week of the month it is.

While COVID-19 noticeably alters the senses of taste and smell of its victims, many of us who have managed to stay healthy over the past 16 months have developed another type of symptom: an altered body. sense of time.

For some, it is as if the pandemic has lasted for a decade or more.

For me, it’s the opposite; time seems to have collapsed.

The months of apprehension and confinement have compressed. I feel like I fair saw my dentist, and yet it’s been over two years. My poor teeth.

“For humans,” said experimental psychologist Ruth Ogden, “time is not like a clock. Time is super flexible. (Salvador Dali’s famous painting of drooping watches, “The persistence of Memory,” comes to mind.)

I called Ogden, who teaches at John Moores University in Liverpool, because she’s an expert on how people think about time.

During pandemic closures, she said, she interviewed more than 600 people in the UK on how they lived the time. Only 20% felt that the time passed normally. Of the rest, 40% said the time went faster and 40% felt it went slower.

Those with satisfactory social contacts tended to report that time passed faster than those with unsatisfactory social life. But why have some of us completely lost track of time?

Ogden said the pandemic has robbed us of what she describes as “our time markers.”

“If you work from home, you can have lunch or go to bed whenever you want,” she said. “All the normal things that separate each day from the others and keep us going through time are gone. What made Saturday Saturday was that you weren’t going to work, you could lie down, you didn’t have to leave the house.

Now each day merges with the next, a phenomenon some have dubbed “Blursday”.

Ogden was on maternity leave with her third child when the pandemic first hit. Naturally, his sense of time has changed.

“It was hell, basically,” she told me over the phone Thursday morning. “I couldn’t believe there were only 24 hours in a day. It was longer.

That’s because time really flies when you’re having fun, she says, and it hangs out when you’re not. No one knows exactly why, as ideally it should be the exact opposite. But emotion is supposed to play a major role.

There may also be an evolutionary reason.

“Before we had clocks and watches and survived in a more difficult world,” Ogden said, “maybe there was an advantage to having a flexible sense of time. Time slows down for people when they believe. they are in danger of death.If you are a caveman and a lion is about to attack you, feeling that you have more time to prepare your response gives you an advantage.

We know that the older you are, the faster time seems to go.

Eleven years : Why is it so long before my birthday arrives?

Me: Christmas again, already?

Researchers say it’s probably just a function of the number of years of life. If you are 5 years old, one year is 20% of your entire life. If you are 20 years old, a year is only 5% of your life. As we get older, a year seems to become a much shorter unit.

Plus, said Ogden, “The kids are busy all the time. A year seems like an eternity because they have done so much.

Some researchers have noticed a paradox in the perception of time during the pandemic.

In a BBC radio interview for a segment titled “Why time flies (and how to slow it down)”, Duke University physicist Adrian Bejan told host Armando Iannucci that at the start of the pandemic, many people experienced a slowdown in time because we had a whole new range of experiences and behaviors. and that our everyday life did not seem familiar to them.

Eventually, he said, as masking and hand washing and working from home became routine, the weather sped up again. (Unless, of course, you’re stuck inside with three young children.)

A lasting effect of the pandemic on our perception of time may be that we have simply come to value it more. After all, who wants to spend an hour and a half in the car to and from work? Or an hour of preparation for the office when you can get out of bed and turn on the computer?

Oddly enough, in psychology circles, time is not seen as a particularly sexy research topic.

“I’ve spent my entire career being told to look for something else because nobody cares about time,” Ogden said.

Before the pandemic, she had perhaps done three news interviews in her entire life.

In the past year and more, she’s done at least 50.

I guess you could say his time has come.


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