TIME WARPED by Claudia Hammond


Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception
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Science broadcaster Hammond (Emotional Rollercoaster: A Journey Through the Science of Feelings, 2007) reports from the front lines of research into the subjectivity of the experience of time and its weird elasticity.

As the author demonstrates, our experience of time is particularly mind-bending: a complex mixture of memory, attention and emotion, which, when in synchronicity, give time its familiar flow. However, when one or more are out of kilter, our perception of time can warp dramatically. Hammond has an aptly liquid writing style, one that encourages engagement and makes the narrative memorable. Memory appears to play a significant role in our time experience, for studies indicate that the gathering of memories slows time and that forsaking new memories speeds time up. Focusing intensely, as in a scary episode, in which you block out other reference points that convey time’s passage, slows time, but paying acute attention can also make time fly. Hammond tours the latest advances in neuroscience, but some of the material feels radically preliminary and is not always entertaining or groundbreaking. The author, however, ably captures both the details of research—“recent experiments suggest that a moment lasts between two and three seconds, which aligns not only with what we see in poetry, but also in music, speech, and movement. We seem to segment activities into a space of two or three seconds”—and broad visualizations of time. Her survey of investigations into how we perceive the future, from picturing the grade we will receive on an exam to suicide plans, feels almost too fragile to behold. Hammond also shows how readers can change their relationships with time, examining this challenge through a variety of problems with time perception, including “Time Is Speeding Up,” “Too Much to Do, Too Little Time” and “A Poor Memory for the Past.”

Occasionally uneven but mostly enjoyable, thought-provoking reading.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-222520-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2013


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