How adrenaline can change our perception of time
Adrenaline ramps up all your senses, or maybe your ability for your brain to process them. That kind of detailed information coming in at a rate you are not used to causes it to seem like time slowed down. Everything in your body is working overtime and at doubletime. It’s the best drug I’ve ever had.
Adrenaline directly affects how your memories are stored. It feels longer because it is stored better, your brain doesn’t actually work that much faster.
It’s mostly how memory works. Your brain does not record everything that happens, but only the important things. That’s why sometimes you are driving your daily commute for half an hour and don’t remember driving the past 15 minutes. You were aware of everything but your brain didn’t recorded it.
An example of this is that you usually don’t hear the ringtones of your coworkers after a while. Your brain gets used to them and “learn” it’s not important to you, so you hear them but not record them. And that’s why it’s useful to change the default ringtone from your phone if you have a popular brand, otherwise your brain will enter “attention mode” every time you hear “The Nokia Tune” (only 90’s kids will get this).
When adrenaline kicks in, it’s mostly because something important is happening. Your brain thinks you are in danger, so it ramps up the senses and recording circuitry for you to detect and react to things happening around you.
The same thing happens even without adrenaline: if you drive somewhere new for the first time, the trip feels longer than after driving it a couple times. The first time your brain does not know the location so it pays attention to every turn, every landmark, every crossing, because it’s important. After a while it “memorized” the route and stops recording most the trip and it feels quicker.
Fun fact, you feel like time has slowed, and you feel like you’re making these good decisions mid crisis because things are slow and you feel like youre seeing everything, but research has shown that the we make horrible decisions in these moments
Imagine a movie clip where it’s running at 30 frames per second. Adrenaline let’s say makes it jump up to 60 fps. We wouldnt see the change in real time on a real video but our mind actually starts to see the extra frames. It takes a microsecond for each frame to be processed so to a count for this your perception of time speeds up giving the illusion of time slowing down. This is to give extra seconds of thinking about what to do.
The other side is when adrenaline makes you skip moments instead. This is the running, fleeing, or escaping side. Each moment doesn’t need to be fully processed. Just the path or the progression of an action. This makes time seem to speed up.