The much awaited book by psychologist Marc Wittman, ‘Felt Time: The psychology of how we perceive time’, is finally available in English. The translation was completed by Erik Butler on 21 March 2016. The original German book, titled ‘Gefuhlte Zeit’, was published in 2014 in Munich and gained quick recognition among social scientists, neurobiologists and even philosophers.
Interestingly, despite the wealth of literature and data available in the fields of psychology, philosophy and neurobiology on the sense of time, our minds still wonder about the conception and direction of time. “Where is time going?” and “How does our mind perceive time?” are questions that still arouse the collective consciousness.
Felt Time answers such questions by, among other things, making the reader dwell into the concept of ‘time passing’. Through a collaboration of behavioral, psychological and neuroscience theories and views, Wittman urges us to stop and think for a second about how time is passing us by and how we tend to view it.
Time comprises a net in which phenomena suddenly appear in a wholly different light. These include feelings, memories, happiness, language, scholastic and professional achievements, one’s sense of self, consciousness, stress, mental illness, and mindfulness of one’s own self and body (Marc Wittman). He further goes on to describe how the same events can be viewed differently by two individuals due to the difference in perception of time. But while another person’s views or feelings might not be completely understood or experienced, they can still be objectively analyzed and studied. He speaks about how impulsive people tend to get bored easily and have trouble waiting. This point has also been illustrated by Danckert and Allman, (2005), who revealed that boredom-prone individuals perceive time intervals to last longer compared to people with lower levels of boredom. He also explains how everyone is a carrier of their own unique personal speed. The explanation for this is that “The contents of our memory make our sense of the length of time” (Marc Wittman). Research conducted by Taatgen et al 2007 has demonstrated how our cognitions affect attention; memory which sequentially impacts our temporal judgements.
Personal speed, according to the research, determines the differences in rates of time. The idea of personal speed has been linked to bodily processes and emotions, particularly ones that impact our heartbeat, which in turn acts as an internal clock for time sensibility. Wittman uncovered time’s subjectivity by keeping in view the insight for various aspects of neuroscience and psychology. The basis for his provision of new solutions to the time perception query is solid; as is the amalgamation of scientific base and physiological overlay.
Our internal clock is, in reality, what makes us experience time. This could also be known as the ‘original clock’ because in reality the original clock is the one synchronising all our body clocks. The ‘error signal’ becomes the reason things get stretched more than usual and vice versa for others.
The distinguishing feature of the book is the belief in the ability of the mind to conquer the intersection between the reality of time and the internal time of a person. The writer emphasises that by making mindfulness a part of daily routine we can slow down our time perception and hence grow slower; meaningful life is a slower life.
Despite the significance of time and how with every ticking second it has a role to play, the components and knowledge of time are not completely understood. The key point to gather from the book is best reflected in the title itself. Time that is felt and lived is the one which is rich in positive experience and can provide us with the highest degree of satisfaction and gratification levels.
Marc Wittman is currently affiliated with the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Department of Empirical and Analytical Psychophysics in Freiburg, Germany. His previous work has also been related to the experience of time and how our concept of self is connected with bodily processes and time perception. Marc Wittman has published many papers such as “The Inner Sense of Time: How the Brain Creates a Representation of Duration”, which was published on 13 February 2013.
“Reading Wittman’s refreshing book, one cannot do but take time — digging deeply into the brain’s neuronal basis of our sometimes illusory experiences of time while immersing oneself in the various philosophical conceptions of time. A must read in our time-stressed times.” says George Northoff, MD, PhD, FRCP, the author of ‘Unlocking the Brain and Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind: Learning from the Unwell Brain’.