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How do we perceive time?

  1. Sep 1, 2010 #1
    How do we perceive the Time?
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 2, 2010 #2
    relative to how fast your going :)
     
  4. Sep 2, 2010 #3
    This is mostly a philosophical question I think.
    Do we perceive time? I am not watching, hearing or feeling time. We perceive "the world" and the changes in it. Things in my memory seem to have happened "earlier in time" than things I am perceiving now and different things in my memory also seem to have an order as to what happened earlier and what happened later. Even tough I may sometimes mix this order up when trying to remember things, I still feel that there exists a proper order. I guess that experiencing our memories as having such order comes closest to something that might be called "perception of time".

    The philosopher Kant famously said something along the lines:
    "time and space are nothing more than the way the intellect orders our perceptions".
     
  5. Sep 2, 2010 #4

    bobze

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    I think the reason we perceive time as passing is because we are subjected to those terrible laws of thermodynamics and decay!

    I suspect that if we didn't age, grow, change --That is to say once we had our body, the biochemical reactions which governed it were invariant, then we wouldn't think of time as "passing" in the way that we do now.


    I also suspect, as someone else mentioned that, how we view time is really an artifact of how neurophysiology works. For example, in order to learn by trial and error, our nervous system must be capable of remembering prior trials. Animals which learn then, have had to develop a nervous system which can associate some prior trial stored somewhere, with a probable outcome of whatever action you maybe pursuing.

    This also means we've had to evolve the ability to establish cause-effect relationships and casual-relationships. Which means our nervous systems need to be able to sort the "past" from the now and in the case of some animals the "future" (applying that knowledge toward predicted outcomes).

    I suspect that by ordering these experiences like this, it gives rise to a perception of a "flowing, linear time line"--Which we "think" we experience.
     
  6. Sep 2, 2010 #5
    I was about to agree with you as this was my own opinion too, but it just came to me: How do we perceive the "rate" of the passage of time? I like to propose that we do it by comparing one ordered set with another, but then it comes the question of: What is the structure I define on these ordered sets that enables me to compare them and judge on their relative "rate of occurrence"? -for which I have no answer right now.
     
  7. Sep 2, 2010 #6

    Evo

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    Ever heard of a clock?

    Perhaps if you do a search on the history of how humans decided to "tell time" and how they agreed to divide time up according to the length of a day, it might help you. It's really very easy to understand.
     
  8. Sep 2, 2010 #7
    :uhh: That was funny (sort of);
    :shy: but "funny" was ALL that it could be.
     
  9. Sep 2, 2010 #8

    Evo

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    I'm quite serious. Biologically, humans have adapted to day/night patterns based on the length of a day here on earth. Our mechanical clocks are based on the length of a day. How we biologically perceive time is very closely tied to the length of a day. People that are completely obscured from daylight and knowledge of time will slightly shift their circadian rythms, but not drastically.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm
     
  10. Sep 2, 2010 #9

    apeiron

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    You can say that our perception of time is tied to our sense of having a rate of action. So we get used to being able to doing things at a certain rate (like hitting tennis balls, generating mental images, whatever) and these actions connect to make a flow of changing experience.

    Which is why time drags when you are not engaged in a rapid flow of events and speeds past when you are in a flow of activity.

    It is more complicated than that of course. You can get into the role of the basal ganglia and cerebellum if you want to talk neurology. But basically we don't experience time in some stand back and measure it way. It is all about the rate at which we can create actual change - which works out at around two or three attention shifts per second.
     
  11. Sep 2, 2010 #10
    No Evo; with all due respect, the way you think you perceive the time is the way my stomach does; perhaps the issue I am posing here is more cognitive rather than biological -at least in the sense and level you employ it.
     
  12. Sep 2, 2010 #11
    Implicit in your concept of "rate" is "time" again; to me it is more like you are utilizing the notion of time to define the very same thing.
     
  13. Sep 2, 2010 #12

    Evo

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    Stewie, you asked an extremely vague question in the biology forum.

    Perhaps you should clearly explain in detail exactly what you want to know rather than make us play a guessing game. Start off by explaining what you know about what you are trying to ask so we have some idea of your level of knowledge.

    Are you asking what part of the brain we utilize to perceive time and how the brain works in order to process that information?
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  14. Sep 2, 2010 #13
    Evo, I explained my point clearly on the very quote you picked up to reply to at first o:)
     
  15. Sep 2, 2010 #14

    apeiron

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    Not really. Implicit in rate is sequence. First there is the bare capacity for change. Then there is a capacity for a rate of change - a succession of changes. So we have a feeling of travelling through a world where many things were possible, but we were carving a clear trail of particular steps.

    Does a worm experience time? No, because it does not have the neural capacity to make a series of cognitive shifts of state.

    Bio-rhythms and other kinds of endogenous clocks are a kind of time perception, but they are repetitive. Cyclic. You keep ending up in the same place. So there is a cycling kind of change, but not a succession of changes, each moment being unique as it is with attentional shifts.
     
  16. Sep 2, 2010 #15

    Evo

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    Stewie, when I sent your post
    to a physics mentor, they weren't sure what you meant either. They wondered if you meant the distance
    .

    You want to compare one ordered set of what with what? To achieve what?
     
  17. Sep 2, 2010 #16

    apeiron

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    Sorry, I missed this clarification.

    The answer would still be that the rate is set by neurology. Attention shifts have a natural, inherent, rate. Because that would not change from one day to the next, you have a stable baseline against which to make such judgements.

    It is not about the rate at which events occur, but the maximum rate at which we can assimilate them. And changes in our rate of assimilation (contrasts between doing lots, or doing little) leads us to feel that the passage time is psychologically different.
     
  18. Sep 2, 2010 #17

    Evo

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    That may be it, I'll bow out. But, I think stewie has a deeper question he's trying to express and I'm too dead tired to help.

    Time perception can vary greatly. If you are in pain, the time seemingly drags on forever. If you are standing before a firing squad the same amount of time is over in the blink of an eye.

    When I fell down the stairs and was certain I was going to break my neck and die, my fall lasted long enough for me to think about cleaning the house, having people over to mourn, my kids, my insurance policies, how much money would go to each, selling the house, caretakers, etc... in real time under 2 seconds elapsed. It seems the amount of information you can process and remember greatly increases while under such great stress.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  19. Sep 2, 2010 #18
    Let me clarify my point and also share my thoughts -thanks to apeiron's hint- on the issue of rate:

    Take the following two sequences:

    1,1,2,2,3,3
    1,1,2,3,4,4

    I think what we do is to first use an ordering parameter to assign an ordering relation to our sense of variation of spatial configuration1 of the surrounding world -that is, sequential perception of distinguishable events, upon which we can establish a sense of time. As for the rate, we put different such orderings on a "lattice" and mutually (after all we are binary creatures) compare how larger is the change of ordering parameter around (in a small interval containing) the local point of interest (for example at the fourth column in the above two-row lattice).

    Update 1: Of course we do not need the ordering parameter for perception of time, the sequential occurrence/cognition of (distinguishable) events automatically does that; but in this scheme, it is needed for comparing the rates.

    Code (Text):
    1- Without loss of generality, I am assuming that here, sight is the only means of perception of the external world.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  20. Sep 2, 2010 #19

    apeiron

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    The feeling of time halting in such situations is more to do with the fact that you cannot act, I believe.

    Normally, attention focuses you in on a definite response, and by so doing excludes many other potential responses. And so time flows as one definite attentional step after another (the flights and perchings of Jamesian psychology).

    However in moments of high arousal, but also an inability to act - such as a car crash - you have a lot of thoughts being aroused at the same time, a flood of responses, and not the usual suppression of choices that leads to a state of focused, intentional, response.

    So there may be more information (a flood of possible thoughts forming) but little actual processing, in the sense of zeroing in on some particular response.
     
  21. Sep 4, 2010 #20
    to add, and reinforce the neurological evolutionary aspect,
    "...the collection of neural structures that comprises the hippocampal formation in the medial temporal lobe..," play an important role in perception of time.

    from an article found at 'Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science
    Volume 42, Number 2, Perception of Time and Causation Through the Kinesthesia of Intentional Action, Walter J. Freeman'
     
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