Summary of Felt Time

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Felt Time book summary

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Psychological researcher Marc Wittmann surveys scientific findings on the subjective experience of time. He focuses on such questions as: How long is a present moment? How does the brain synthesize a series of discrete moments into a continuous flow? Why does time appear to move faster and slower in different situations? Wittmann points out that research suggests an intimate connection between self-awareness and time’s apparent pace. Time flies when you lose awareness of yourself, say at a concert, but when you are stuck on hold, time drags as you focus on yourself and your unfortunate situation. Wittmann offers fascinating, provocative findings, but he organizes his material loosely, so he doesn’t quite wrap it all up in an obvious overarching theme, except perhaps advocating awareness as a way to keep your life from seeming to fly by. His synthesis of research will appeal to artists, communicators and all those who want to align their messages with the rhythms of human awareness.

About the Author

Marc Wittmann is a research fellow at Germany’s Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health.

Summary

A Matter of Time

Your body does not have an internal clock that accurately ticks off the minutes of your life. Your experience of time is subjective. Time’s pace can seem to speed up or slow down, depending on such variables as your emotions and attention. For example, when you are enjoying a movie, time seems to fly. But a few minutes stuck in traffic can make time feel interminable.

Scientists believe people experience time in discrete units, a series of present moments that the brain stitches into an apparently continuous flow. Producing this flow is an essential element in cultivating a sense of self – the ego that persists through the moments and experiences of time’s jagged flow. As a result, awareness of the self is integral to the subjective pace of time, which accelerates when you “lose yourself” in an interesting task and which drags when you focus too much on yourself.

The Three-Second Present

People appear to experience time’s flow in “temporal units” that last two to three seconds. When people speak of the present moment – the now – they refer to this small window of perception. The brain’s mechanisms meld...


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    A. G. 3 years ago
    “Immigrants are often the ones who give the economy a push – precisely because of their future orientation.” Now how is this abstracted quote linked to time?

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