PEOPLE with busy lives don’t necessarily live longer, but they might feel as if they do. Our brains use the world around us to keep track of time, and the more there is going on, the slower time feels.
Brains were thought to measure time by using some kind of internal clock that generates events at a relatively regular rate.
To test whether external stimuli might also play a role in our ability to process time, Misha Ahrens and Maneesh Sahani at University College London showed 20 subjects a video of either a randomly changing stimulus - statistically modelled on the way that things naturally change randomly in the world around us - or a static image, for a set period of time.
When asked to judge how much time had passed, the volunteers who had been shown the moving stimulus were significantly more accurate. The subjects were also shown the video at two different speeds and asked to rate the duration of each clip. They thought both clips lasted the same amount of time, even though the faster version was shorter (Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.043).
The results suggest that the brain exploits changes in visual information, when it’s available, to judge time, says Sahani.”
Why does music make us feel? On the one hand, music is a purely abstract art form, devoid of language or explicit ideas. The stories it tells are all subtlety and subtext. And yet, even though music says little, it still manages to touch us deep, to tickle some universal nerves. When listening to our favorite songs, our body betrays all the symptoms of emotional arousal. The pupils in our eyes dilate, our pulse and blood pressure rise, the electrical conductance of our skin is lowered, and the cerebellum, a brain region associated with bodily movement, becomes strangely active. Blood is even re-directed to the muscles in our legs. (Some speculate that this is why we begin tapping our feet.) In other words, sound stirs us at our biological roots. As Schopenhauer wrote, “It is we ourselves who are tortured by the strings.”
Click the link above to read more @ wired.com
Dissertation eats time
One of the reasons I haven’t been posting here much lately is because I’ve been managing The Earwormery, which functions as a ‘bite page’ for the earworm projects we’re running at Goldsmiths.
The main reason it was set up is to host the ‘music in your head questionnaire’, which has now had over 1200 participants, so we’re pretty happy with that! It aims to find out more about the nature and qualities of people’s earworms, and examine possible correlates of increased frequency/intensity etc. Have a go! A lot of what is in there will be analysed in my dissertation - which, scarily, is due in less than one month now. In between analysing data, writing up and revising for my last exam (on the 25th) I’ve become frustratingly unable to involve myself in any blogging… though I do still keep the tweets up a bit (@joshuafry).
It’s all coming together now though I think, the results are looking reasonably pleasing, and I should be able to construct a nice narrative around them. I’ve been setting up the second part of my dissertation too, ‘Project Sing-a-Worm’, which asks participants to record themselves singing their earworms. We’ve had around 20 people sign up, which will be enough if they actually take part - but it is a bit of a concern as it is quite possible that they will decide it’s too time consuming or just forget to do it! Fingers crossed!
By mid-September I’ll be done with all this and looking for something else to do with my life, so should have some more time to discuss other people’s work again!