Time Perception

Updated on March 25, 2018

Time is not something that can be seen but rather as a concept of human perception. Time, an indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded, is a concept that scientists have been debating about over a period of time. Time is not something one could use with their five senses, but rather a malleable idea. It is a debatable topic on whether time exists because it has been known to us for so long, and we do not know when or why that is. We all believe that our future is inevitable, and that time must go on, but why? Is it because we choose to accept that time only goes forward? What if time did not only go forward but exists simultaneously? Time has found itself being theorized by scientists, Einstein’s theory of relativity could explain some key points, and it was possibly made to construct our lives.

Why does time seem to fly when we are having fun, but slows when life hits us hard? Does it really exist? Time can be slowed to a person’s perspective on things. Say for instance, you are in class half asleep nodding off constantly and waking up to see that the clock hand barely moved an inch. Now visualize that you have arrived at an amusement park one early morning because you were super excited about the rides and after spending some time there you are shocked to realize that it is already late in the afternoon when you check your watch. This phenomenon is called the oddball effect. This phenomenon happens when our brain begins to warp and shift time.

As humans, we have this sense that time flows forward, and we’re just along for the ride.

— Chess Stetson

Stetson is saying that humans believe that time only flows one way rather than possibly coexisting. Humans cannot truly grasp the aspect of time flow and uses mere guesses as to how long they have spent doing something without the help of a clock. Other theories, such as Einstein’s theory of relativity, further explains the effects that time has towards people and reasoning as to its occurrences.

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time dilation is a difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers either moving relative to each other or differently situated from a gravitational mass or masses.

Einstein realized that space and time are relative—an object in motion actually experiences time at a slower rate than one at rest.

— John Fuller

In other words, envision a person about to bungee jump off the top of a tall bridge. In that person’s perspective, the fall could feel like ten seconds has gone by whereas to the person who is witnessing the action of their comrade falling is perceiving the fall as of three seconds. The person that has fallen may have that feeling that time has slowed down possibly due to the fear of the action that was taken. Humans can be bad at estimating time because it is not something that can be seen. Time is an invisible measurement that people use to organize their lives. Time may be contorted by space and gravity.

Let us look at Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The dependence of various physical phenomena on relative motion of the observer and the observed objects, especially regarding the nature and behavior of light, space, time, and gravity. It explains gravity’s effects.

Gravity affects the shape of space and flow of time… more massive objects like our sun can warp space and affect the orbits of the surrounding planets. The planets don't fall into the sun, of course, because of the high speeds at which they travel.

— John Fuller

John fuller is stating that gravity influences time due to massive objects. For example, they say that the moon causes the earth to have waves. This is because the water in the ocean bulges out towards the gravitational pull of the moon. This could be true for the difference in time because of the gravitational pull of the sun. We could be experiencing time differently if we were in outer space, on a super fast ride, or just simply doing nothing. When I say doing nothing, I mean that it is possible that time seems to take forever to move on. There are two sets of views towards time because scientists do not seem to see eye to eye on the matter.

There are different views on the topic of time. There are two types of theorists: “A” theorists and “B” theorists. “B” theorists argue that time is an illusion, and that the past, present, and future occurs simultaneously.

With the proper technology, such as a very fast spaceship, one person is able to experience several days while another person simultaneously experiences only a few hours or minutes. The same two people can meet up again, one having experienced days or even years while the other has only experienced minutes.

This is due to the cause of the oddball effect. When one person is going in a high-speed motion, they are experiencing time slower, whereas the person observing it is going by quicker. There has been experiments where atomic clocks have been sent to space in high-speed rockets and came back slightly behind clocks on earth. “A” theorists may oppose “B” theorists’ idea of time since there are no definitions for A-theory. If this is true, then “A” theorists may believe that time exists and has been for a very long time. They only see the world as it is today. “A” theorists see time as a straight line with no disruptions that only goes forward.

Time could have been invented to help humans organize their daily lives. A variety of devices has been made to measure time and horologists are the ones who studies these devices. There is archaeological evidence of oil lamps that dates to 4,000 B.C.E., which the Chinese were using.

It was possible to devise a way of measuring the level in the oil reservoir to measure the passing of time.

— Leo Rogers

Marked candles were used in the sixth century china to mark the passage of time. The sundial, an invention that was made to cast a shadow on a stone of slab to show the different phases of a day, was improved by the Egyptians, who called it a Merkhet, is the oldest known astronomical instrument that was produced around 600 B.C.E. Knowing the time of the day, people were acknowledging the changes that were happening around them such as the direction and length of shadows and the seasons. Time may have been created due to these factors. Calendars of course would have perchance been made to mark the seasons as to when they may appear. It was needed and still is needed to show when different seasons of the month may appear for harvesting food and when to prepare to grow the food. It is also needed so that we could mark the different weather that may appear in the times to come.

Overall, I consider that time can be perceived differently for each person and can be distorted by the human brain. Time is something that does not exist and is only in the human mind. Humans were to believe that time only goes forward and never backwards, so they are supposed to be observers and watch as time flies by them. People should be able to just live in the moment, but that is not how the world works. We are constantly making appointments and scheduling out our lives for the notion of others. Time is not something that we are able to see and is only something that the human mind has made up so that we are able to go about our daily lives. Benjamin Lee Whorf, an anthropologist, linguistics, and fire prevention, theorized that every day is the same and that we are living in eternity now. Meaning that the only change in the day is what people do differently each passing day. It may just be a theory, but what do you think about time not existing- would you say that time exist or that it does not?


"Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time." Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time. 10 Apr. 2007. Web. 12 May 2016. <http://everythingforever.com/einstein.htm>.

Fuller, John. "How Warp Speed Works." HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks.com, 7 Mar. 2008. Web. 12 May 2016. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/warp-speed2.htm>.

Rogers, Leo. "A Brief History of Time Measurement.” Nrich.maths.org. May 2008. Web. 12 May 2016. <https://nrich.maths.org/6070>.


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    • cheaptrick profile image

      cheaptrick 3 weeks ago from the bridge of sighs

      Back in the early 70's a rock group called 'Chicago' did a song entitled "does anybody really know what time it is?"...apparently not...

    • Guckenberger profile image

      Alexander James Guckenberger 3 weeks ago from Maryland, United States of America

      This is an incredibly complex subject.