I don't know about you, but in this pandemic, I feel as though the weeks are flying by. In this interview conducted by Darryn King, neuroscientist David Eagleman talks about the many ways the world wrought by Covid-19 has affected the way we think.
In one of your famous experiments, you had people fall from a great height to see how they perceived time differently during a moment of terror. Well, 2020 has felt like one long, drawn-out period of terror. Does that have something to do with how this whole year has felt like a timesoup?
Well, as you know from that experiment, what I found was that we judge how long something took by how much memory we have encoded. When you're in a scary situation, that's a novel situation — and you look back and you think it took a long time because it generated intense memories.
The issue with 2020, particularly with everyone in lockdown, is that we're all stuck in the same four walls. And even though there are stressful things that occupy our minds, the fact is we're not laying down very distinct memories, largely because we're not moving around to different locations. Everything blurs together because every day looks essentially just like the last one. So when you look back, you think, We've been in lockdown for… how long? What day is this?