Ever reach the end of a two week holiday and feel like you’ve been gone for months? Well science says that if you want a (seemingly) longer life, you should indeed travel frequently. Why? Because time really does move slower when you travel – well, your perception of it at least.
Psychologists call the phenomenon “time’s subjective expansion”, which is a pretty simple concept – it refers to the fact that sometimes an hour flies by, while at other times it drags on and on. But of course, an hour is always an hour, despite how long or short it can feel.
So why is it, then, that time seems a whole lot longer when we travel? It’s because of something called ‘the oddball effect’, which is the idea that when something unusual happens, your brain devotes more neural resources to it, which makes it feel like it took a longer period of time.
One of the best ways to show this is via imagery. Watch the video below:[media_embed]https://youtu.be/t7C_PgMDugQ[/media_embed]
It seems like the image of the tiger is on screen for a longer period of time, when in fact, both the goldfish and the tiger flash in one second increments. The tiger’s unfamiliarity is what makes it seem like time moves slower when its on the screen.
“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it,” wrote journalist Joshua Foer in his book Moonwalking with Einstein. When faced with the mundane and familiar – such as our everyday lives and surroundings – our brains don’t need to do too much work to compute what’s going on because it’s in a comfortable mental space. But when we travel or experience new things, our brains work a lot harder because of how unfamiliar everything is, making time “move slower”.
The theory also extends to the idea that time seems moves faster as we age. Why? Because as children growing up, we go through a whole new bunch of ‘firsts’, but as we age, we experience less new things and life becomes more monotonous.
Sounds like a great excuse for your next trip, wouldn’t you say?
(h/t: NY Mag)