Posted by Tenpin at 12.00pm on 20 October 2014
Time Flies When You're Having Fun... or Does
You know that feeling that time seems to go faster when
you're doing something enjoyable like bowling. Well … (trumpet
fanfare) … it may not be true.
Sometimes, when you're really concentrating on an activity (like
lining up the perfect shot), it can actually almost feel as if
you're in slow motion.
A scientific experiment way back in 1992 showed that paying
greater attention to something meant that people thought they'd
spent longer on the activity.
And what about when you have a really great weekend away? When
you get back to school or work on Monday it can feel as if you've
been away for a week. Time feels as if it's been stretched out.
The fact that we believe time goes faster when we're having fun
may be more about the opposite: the fact that time seems to crawl
by when we're not having a good time. Boredom gives us plenty of
opportunity to count the seconds as they pass and get the feeling
that time has practically stopped. Zzzzzzz …
Have we Got it Back to Front?
In a 2010 experiment, people carrying out a boring task were
tricked into thinking it had only taken half the time. The other
participants were told the correct length of time the task took.
The people who thought time had passed quickly found the task more
enjoyable than the people who knew how much time it had really
So maybe it's the other way round? Perhaps, if you feel time has
passed quickly, you're just more likely to assume you've been
A Question of Belief
In the end it may simply depend on whether you believe time
flies when you're having fun. The 2010 experiment tested this idea.
The people who believed more firmly that time flies when you're
having fun were more likely to believe they were having fun when
time flew. So the whole thing could just be a self-fulfilling
Then again an experiment in 2012 showed that you only get the
feeling of time flying if you're actively pursuing a goal or
achievement. Just being happy or having a pleasant experience
doesn't make time fly - but being excited or actively pursuing a
desired action (like a win on the lanes) can.
Are You Still With us? Well done
By now you've spent a few minutes reading this blog. It may have
been very pleasant, but wouldn't you rather be bowling? Get down to
the lanes now and carry out your own experiments!