How Good is Your 6th Sense…(long text)

Posted by Mycroft on February 28, 1998 at 21:04:58:

We are all fascinated by time, its measurement, telling the time and the instruments that tell and display time. Watches whether they are for decorative or functional purposes are at the heart of our intense interest. So let me ask you as a point of curiosity – How good is your 6th sense?

Now before you give up on me as a babbling idiot lunatic writing totally out of context, let me explain. We all have and know about the common 5 senses (common sense is not counted): – vision – smell – touch – hearing – taste The 6th, is much less well talked about (although we all use it everyday to varying degrees of accuracy), is really the SENSE OF TIME, or the body’s internal clock which allows us to appreciate and gauge the passing of time.

This really is another difference between man and animal (but may be also present in other primates). The Passage of Time Let me set you thinking – how accurate is your own estimate of the passage of time? When you “feel” that 5min or 1 hr has passed, is it really so? What is the explanation of some of the time perception anomalies that we experience?

Allow me to explore this a little further. The body’s perception of time is an extremely complex multi-factorial process. Only some of it relates to neuronal (read brain) processing. It is known that the body clock (which over time relates to a circadian biorhythm) is affected by factors which regulate the metabolic rate of the body. Although there is some study of this phenomenon of intrinsic time-keeping, much is still unknown. There is a normal “rate” within which all processes in the the body work. Under “normal” circumstances, the perception of time would be fairly accurate for most people and dead-on accurate for a small proportion of people. It is the interest in why this may differ for different persons that has led to some research on this subject. It has been found that some factors that will influence our internal timekeeping accuracy may include:

– BODY TEMPERATURE – When you have a fever, the perception of time passing is slower. ie when you think that 5 min. has elapsed, very often less time has actually gone by. You will feel that more time has passed than is actually so. This association is limited to within a small range of (core body) temperatures, beyond which, you, of course die. This tends to end most experiments. The converse is true of lowered temperatures. The mechanism of action in this case works through temperature affecting the heart rate and metabolism, and also the timing of various body processes like the speed of enzymic reactions
etc. The speed at which these processes are performed directly influences how our brain perceives the passage of time. An easy way to think about this is to remember that to take a
segment of slow-motion footage (using a cine camera [not video], we actually shoot the scene at a higher shutter rate and then when it is played back at normal speed, the motion appears slowed.)

– Predominant activation of the SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (fight or flight response) will give similar results to a fever, while the PARASYMPATHETIC SYSTEM (that sleepy feeling after a meal, or after sex) tends to “slow” time. Let me explain. Ever wondered why, when you are in your boss’s room, and he is hauling your butt and giving you a shelling, you will feel an eternity has passed when actually only 5-10 min went by? Your Sympathetic (fight or flight) System was working overtime!!

– MENTAL PRE-OCCUPATION – This is obvious, when you are busy, you don’t “notice” time passing, so it seems to go by faster.

– VISUAL CLUES – Act to give us an idea of the passage of time.

– HORMONAL IMBALANCE – will act through its influence on the metabolic pathway. Thus a Hyperthyroid patient may note that everything is happening quickly, vs a Hypothyroid patient where the opposite is true.

– AGE – I find that children and the young tend to think that it takes an eternity for time to pass. This was certainly my own experience. As one ages, time seems to slip by and then fly-by. I find that sometimes I even “lose” whole days. This phenomenon is the assessment of the passage of time vs a body of experience. This is
something that is very difficult to explain, as it relates to the amount of a person’s past experience influencing the perception of time. Thus, a child, because it has not been alive a long time and has a smaller body of experience, will actually measure a specific period of time vs this. Having this fairly high ratio will give a child to perceive period of time to seem longer than it actually is. It explains why as we grow older and have more “time” behind us, that the same period of time seems shorter. Of course, because of the complexity of this argument, there are many schools of thought and debate is inevitable. Also, as a child our metabolic rate tends to be higher, relating to the higher growth rate. In the elderly, the metabolic process slows, affecting time perception.

– SLEEP – Sleep, a state that you are probably in now, distorts our perception of time. During the dream state in REM sleep, you can dream whole episodes of your life, which may seem very real in its passage of time and sequence in a few minutes of sleep; whole holidays may experienced in our 6 hours period of

I did not intend to render you comatose, but this discourse (otherwise known as mental diarrhea) arose out of my curiosity of how, each of you felt about your ability to perceive Time – something that consumes our interest.

So how accurate is your 6th sense?

Regards TC

Perception of time is also related to culture (more)

Posted by John McSweeny on March 01, 1998 at 0:41:21: In Reply to: How Good is Your 6th Sense…(long text) posted by Mycroft on February 28, 1998 at 21:04:58:

Hello TC,

Psychologists have systematically studied the perception of time. Indeed, this ability has even been tested in the context of developing diagnostic tests for
neuralgic disease. However, some of the most interesting studies have been performed on the relation to culture to time perception. Robert Levine has published a book describing these studies for the general public entitled “The Geography of Time.”

As you might guess “northern” cultures tend to be much more time conscious or at least clock conscious than “Southern” cultures. The country with the most accurate public clocks in the world is Switzerland; the country with least accurate is El Salvador. Other countries with accurate clocks include Japan and Northern European countries whereas Mexico, South America and SE Asia tend to have less accurate clocks. Clock consciousness also varies from metropolitan to rural areas within a country and also from city to city. Thus, NYC is the most time conscious city in the U.S. while “laid back” L.A. is much less so.

BTW, time consciousness and politeness are related, although imperfectly. Thus, while in general less time conscious cities were found to be more polite, NYC and L.A. both came in towards the bottom of the politeness scale (NYC, in fact, was at the bottom). You and other TZ’ers might enjoy reading the book. Perhaps I will write a more systematic abstract in the near future.


Time and Money…an Explanation (more)

Posted by Mycroft on March 01, 1998 at 7:38:06: In Reply to: Perception of time is also related to culture (more) posted by John McSweeny on March 01, 1998 at 0:41:21:

Dear John and Walt,

Thanks for your comments, Your additions are most enjoyable.

You brought to mind the same interesting observations that I have, although your comments really
crystallized them. I would go further, and attempt an explanation while trying not to add injury. I would like to add to your observation with the fact that the Northern hemisphere is largely acknowledged to be historically and presently more wealthy than the South from time immemorial – even in the US this is seen (the North-South divide).

Indeed, Switzerland is the second most wealthy nation in the world (GDP per capita US $40,000), the most wealthy being Luxumberg (GDP per capita US$47,000, another Northern country). Why this is so would go into a geo-political discussion and debate, which I would save us all from. I would venture to argue that from the very early days, clocks and watches were always very expensive luxury items only
available to the rich or richer folk. This is the reason why many place started with village clocks when personal clocks were unavailable. Hence, watches and timekeeping devices would only be available in richer societies where it would then be more meaningful to be time concious when you have a watch or clock to judge this by; and perhaps a larger population with access to this “technology”.

Now, of course this argument no longer holds because the availbility of watches is almost universal. The legacy of “watching time” (or not) has remained with each culture since the foregoing has been true for the last few hundred years. However, you still see some people surviving without watches (and by the way, their internal time keeping may yet be excellent in being able to “tell” time without a watch). I certainly am unable to survive without a watch (laying aside my interest in watches) because the lack of time references would drive me crazy! It would be interesting to test this theory within a society such as the US, where there has been a historical wealth divide, to see what the time attitudes are between the North and South. Of course, with the increased mobility of people nowadays and the universality of Time, this effect would be blurred.

So Walt, John and the rest of you Americans out there, what are your observations within the US itself??

Also, I would like to revive my original question of being able to tell time without a clock, how good is your perception of Time?

regards, TC

A Fascinating Experiment…(long text)

Posted by Jack Freedman on March 01, 1998 at 23:35:06: In Reply to: How Good is Your 6th Sense…(long text) posted by Mycroft on February 28, 1998 at 21:04:58:

A Fascinating Experiment

Hello Mycroft and all,

Your discussion about the six senses and question how good is one’s perception of Time is a sample demonstration of how all inhabitants of our universe depend on time by instinct, knowingly or not.

The punctual relationship of precision timekeeping to our daily lives is more important than we normally realize or even comprehend. We all have the same 24 hours in a day yet the passage of time is marked in as many ways as there are living species on our planet. Human beings, by divine design and blessing, have a unique ability to CONTROL (read not stop, slow down or reverse) time to their needs. Did you ever wonder how some people devour a paperback while on line at the bank or supermarket checkout?

Our God given mental powers are able to dictate how we wish to mark the passage of time. It is interesting to note that certain tasks can be accomplished in half the time when one is in a particular rush yet will fill out the space available as the same task on hand expands with time. While it may be a bit easier to understand the connection of time with mankind, it is absolutely fascinating to learn about the built-in time mechanisms in animals and other living species as we will see soon.

For those of you who are not members of the NAWCC (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc.) I bring the following article which appeared in the NAWCC Bulletin February 1998 issue:

Bees Astound Scientist: They Keep Time! Condensed from Time and Life. Reprinted with permission from Bulova Corporation from the September 1955 issue of Watch Repair Digest, Submitted by Isabel Rambo (PA).

The bees have a built-in time sense that ticks away independent of all “environmental factors.” So say Dr. Renner of the University of Munich and Dr. Schneirla of New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

To prove their point, they have completed the first phase of an elaborate experiment in bee psychology. More than 20 years ago, Dr. Karl von Frisch, topflight bee authority, thought of a way to test the bee’s remarkable sense of time. He knew that if sugar water is offered to bees at a fixed hour, they will sally forth every day just in time to get it. They do not judge time by the sun, as was proved by putting the hive in an artificially lighted room, but there was a chance that some subtle local influence might keep them on schedule. Von Frisch decided that the way to eliminate all such influences, suspected and unsuspected, would be to train bees to feed at a definite hour and then move them quickly to a distant part of the
earth. If they continued to feed by the local time of their old home, it would prove that they have a timekeeping mechanism as independent as a wristwatch.

The experiment was once difficult because ocean-going ships cannot move fast enough to carry bees a sufficient distance between daily feeding periods. Modern airliners can. This year Von Frisch’s associates, Dr. Max Renner and Dr. Werner Loher, prepared for the great experiment. With the help of Dr. Theodore C. Schneirla of New York’s American Museum of Natural History (Dr. Schneirla is an ant man, but he doubles in bees), they built two identical sunless bee-testing rooms: one in Paris, one in New York. Then they trained a hive of bees in Paris to start feeding at 8:15 p.m. Paris time. Five thousand of the bees were put in a closed hive, loaded on an airliner and flown to New York. Dr. Renner’s troubles were not all scientific. He had to persuade airline officials not to place the bees into the unpressurized baggage compartment where they would have died of exposure. Later he prevented officials from routinely spraying the plane’s interior with DDT only by threatening to release a swarm of bees about their heads.

In spite of all obstacles, however, they completed their trans-ocean journey between feeding periods and were placed in the room that Dr. Schneirla had prepared for them. Suspensefully, the scientists watched the hive. If the bees waited until 8:15 p.m. New York time, before feeding, it would mean that their time sense is controlled by something connected with their position on the earth. The bees did not wait. Punctually at 3:15 New York time, 8:15 Paris time, they swarmed out for their sugar water.

This proved that their remarkable time sense had nothing to do with their location on earth; wherever the bees are, they keep right on time without the benefit of intricate mechanisms created by the watchmaker’s skill. ——– End of story.

Now, to return to my original comments about humans. Our built-in time clocks are subject to a certain degree of control via mental exercises. An individual has the means (to a limited extent) to regulate and adjust his built-in timekeeping system similar to a watchmaker regulating the precision rate of a timepiece.

To summarize my thoughts, here is an appropriate quote: If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. (Henry David Thoreau)

Regards, Jack Freedman