Your perception of time is linked to your metabolism

Credit: Alphacoders

A recent study, led by researchers at Dublin's Trinity College, has found that our perception of time is a little more subjective than you might think. All across the animal kingdom, different creatures live in their own little worlds; some moving much faster than others.

The common housefly is a prime example of a creature that experiences time differently than we do. Their tiny bodies and rapid metabolisms allow them to perceive time as moving much slower than we do. Flies take in so much data in a short period of time that they actually see the world around them moving slower than we do. Think of them as living in a perpetual state of bullet-time. On the opposite side of the coin are larger animals, especially those with metabolisms that are naturally slow. The three-toed sloth, for instance, might see us all as incredibly fast blurs of motion.

What's truly fascinating about the study's findings is that not all species are so easy to nail down to one perception of time — and humans are among these exceptions. Before we get to how you can alter your perception of time, we'll give a different example: the tiger beetle. This little bug can run so fast that its eyes fail to keep up. That means that if it runs fast enough, it effectively goes blind since its eyes are still processing data that it received a few moments before.

How this relates to humans is actually very interesting. By altering our metabolic rates through exercise and eating habits, people can actually push themselves to perceive reality differently. Take for example tennis or baseball players. There is evidence that an athlete who is "in the zone" actually takes in more visual data than the average person does in the same time frame. Effectively, they slow down the world around them in order to be capable of pulling off the perfect hit.

It could sound like a lot of quasi-scientific mumbo-jumbo, but the study's head researcher, Dr. Kevin Healy thinks that it makes perfect sense.

"Our results lend support to the importance of time perception in animals where the ability to perceive time on very small scales may be the difference between life and death for fast moving organisms such as predators and their prey."

And humans, when we push ourselves, are capable of just the same feats. We might not be able to dodge bullets just yet, but when we need to, we can actually slow down the world around us. There is no spoon.


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