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We Live In The Past: David Eagleman On Our Perception Of Time [VIDEO]
Science | January 29, 2013

We Live In The Past: David Eagleman On Our Perception Of Time [VIDEO]

Why is it that time seems to speed up as we get older and slow down drastically when we're in a life-threatening situation? In a new keynote from renowned neuroscience speaker David Eagleman, he explains that time is extremely difficult to study—but that we're starting to better understand how we perceive it. Because we can't physically see or feel time, it possesses an abstract quality which makes it hard to measure. In this talk, Eagleman discusses the way that our brains perceive time—giving some eye-opening examples in the process.

Eagleman says that our perception of an event depends on what happens next. We live in the past, he explains, because by the time our brain pieces together an event it has already happened. Your brain takes in the information, processes it, and then delivers it to your consciousness—but by the time you are perceiving it and are conscious of it, the event has already passed. Since conscious thinking operates with a bit of a lag, how far in the past are we living? Thanks to some of Eagleman's research, he's found that we are at least 1/10 of a second behind real time. Part of the reason for this lag is that the brain needs to sync up all of the different cues it is being given from the body. We hear, touch, smell, things at different times. However, the brain coordiates all of the senses to present your conscious mind with a unified picture of what is happening. Or, more accurately, what has already happened.

In his keynotes, Eagleman presents mind-bending findings that help us understand the complexities of the human brain. Using a combination of scientific fact paired with humor and a dynamic stage presence, he draws audiences in without losing them in technical jargon. He holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and is the founder and director of the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is also the author of several bestselling books. Eagleman brings scientific discovery into everyday life—causing us to rethink what we know about human nature in the process.
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