Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies

Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies

This is a discussion on Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies within the Carry & Defensive Scenarios forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; This is interesting. Read it through. You'll see how it relates to being caught in certain "Life or Death" shooting scenarios. Why Time Seems to ...

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  1. #1
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    Post Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies

    This is interesting. Read it through.
    You'll see how it relates to being caught in certain "Life or Death" shooting scenarios.

    Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies
    By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience.com

    In The Matrix, the hero Neo could dodge bullets because time moved in slow motion for him during battles.
    Indeed, in the real world, people in danger often feel as if time slowed down for them.

    This warping of time apparently does not result from the brain speeding up from adrenaline when in danger.
    Instead, this feeling seems to be an illusion, scientists now find.

    To see if danger makes people experience time in slow motion, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston tried scaring volunteers.
    However, roller coasters and other frightening amusement park rides did not cause enough fear to make time warp.

    Instead, the researchers dropped volunteers from great heights. Scientists had volunteers dive backward with no ropes attached, into a special net that helped break their fall.
    They reached 70 mph during the roughly three-second, 150-foot drop.

    "It's the scariest thing I have ever done," said researcher David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine. "I knew it was perfectly safe, and I also knew that it would be the perfect way to make people feel as though an event took much longer than it actually did."

    Indeed, volunteers estimated their own fall lasted about a third longer than dives they saw other volunteers take.

    To see if this meant people in danger could actually see and perceive more—like a video camera in slow motion can—Eagleman and his colleagues developed a device called a "perceptual chronometer" that was strapped onto volunteers' wrists.
    This watch-like device flickered numbers on its screen.
    The scientists could adjust the speed at which numbers appeared until they were too fast to see.

    If the brain sped up when in danger, the researchers theorized numbers on the perceptual chronometers would appear slow enough to read while volunteers fell.

    Instead, the scientists found that volunteers could not read the numbers at faster-than-normal speeds.

    "We discovered that people are not like Neo in The Matrix, dodging bullets in slow-mo," Eagleman said.

    Memory trick

    Instead, such time warping seems to be a trick played by one's memory.
    When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.

    "In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and denser memories," Eagleman explained. "And the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took."

    Eagleman added this illusion "is related to the phenomenon that time seems to speed up as you grow older.
    When you're a child, you lay down rich memories for all your experiences; when you're older, you've seen it all before and lay down fewer memories.
    Therefore, when a child looks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lasted forever; adults think it zoomed by."

    This work could help better understand disorders linked with timing, such as schizophrenia. Still, in the end, "it's really about understanding the virtual reality machinery that we're trapped in," Eagleman told LiveScience. "Our brain constructs this reality for us that, if we look closely, we can find all these strange illusions in.
    The fact that we're now seeing this with how we perceive time is new."
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Array BruceGibson's Avatar
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    Great post.

    I can relate to the "time slowdown." The longest 8-seconds you'll ever experience can be had in bull riding. Time seems to slow way down.

    Seriously. I'm not savvy enough to understand the science behind it, but I'd guess the adrenaline/danger factor would certainly play a part.

  3. #3
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    I am aware of this effect - probably most of us are - even with an auto wreck or near miss - time seems to dilate and expand. Most so with recollecting the event.

    I shall always hope - in the event I should ever be facing a BG - that my time dilation exceeds his
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    2 points I'd like to add to the discussion.

    1) I remember seeing the actual research on one of the "nerd channels" that I watch. The people bungeeed backwards while looking at the devices on their writst trying to remember what was displayed. It was interesting. I am not sure if it accurately represents what one perceives when one truly believes they are close to their demise. They were prepared beforehand and ensured of their safety after the event.

    2) I had an experience where time distorts. Friendly fire incident in the Marines during training. A fire team was discharging rounds from their A2's, 203's and their light machine guns (I think M60's). Two others and myself walked close to their field of fire. (We were left behind after our training and the recon marines had the area after us. They expected to be the only ones in the area.) The whole incident probably lasted only 20 - 30 seconds, but I swear I could recount my whole 18 years of life during that 1/2 minute. And just like in the cartoons, pictures popped up in my mind of many events that I had experienced in my life.

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    sojourner
    I hear you.
    I had one (near death) myself though not as eventful as yours so just trying to understand the basic phenomena. It's interesting.
    The human brain is an amazing machine.
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    VIP Member Array Rob72's Avatar
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    I have some difficulty with the testing, too. Personally, and from talking to others who have experienced "slo-mo", I believe the filters are running at high-discretion. You routinely dump huge quantities of collected information as "irrelevant," not worth the memory; in high-stress, it would seem that what your brain is accepting is more closely analyzed and less overall info is taken in (ala tunnel-vision.)

    Bungee jumping and net-crashing are grossly artificial, in context, as there is no forced decision-making process. I would venture that if participants were told that they had to pull a ripcord at exactly 23.5 seconds from jump to not hit the concrete, the seconds would have been much more defined. I don't think such a study would pass the local Institutional Review Board, though...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Array tegemu's Avatar
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    Time seems to slow down because of the natural "Fight or Flight" syndrome that all humans have. In a high stress situation your adrenaline load soars which makes you more alert and aware of everything and all your actions seem to be under precise control which leads to the time shortening effect. I have been in a "Do or Die" situation many times, mostly when i was on a "Code Blue" team in a hospital. All the members of the team would comment on this time slowing effect. It was as if I were the 6 Million Dollar Man.
    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence in their behalf. - George Orwell

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    I thought I was going to die once in my youth...

    My girlfriends Dad came into the house unexpectedly while we were in her bedroom doing things that Dad wouldnt have appeciated. She had two windows in her room, one was right over the 3 car garage and the other was straight down into the backyard.

    I bailed out the window thinking that I would hit the roof of the carport and then I could jump the next 8 feet and be OK. Unfotunately in my haste, I bailed out the wrong window....the second story window right into the back yard. As I realized my mistake, while I was dropping two stories below and thinking that it was going to hurt, how I was going to explain it to my parents, her parents, missing school,missing football practice,the fact that my Dad was going to kill me... the whole bit...I swear that it seemed like it took me a full minute to hit the ground....when in fact it couldnt have been more than a full second at most.

    I just knew that would break my legs. I hit the ground and rolled and got up and started running and never checked up till I got home...a full block away. I didnt get a scratch on me, but when I woke up the next day, my ankles were so sore I couldnt hardly walk.

    I guess after the adrenaline wore off my pain became apparent.

    Adrenaline not only distorts time as we perceive it, but it also deadens the pain somewhat. When you are out of danger and things are safe...then you start feeling the effects.
    I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.


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    My first skydive, the free fall seamed like three or four minuets.
    actually about 15 seconds.
    "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
    - Sir Winston Churchill

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    My first skydive it seemed like the chute took a week to fully open. Once it was...I just enjoyed the ride down. I liked it so much that I did it quite often.
    I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.


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  11. #11
    VIP Member Array ron8903's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    My first skydive it seemed like the chute took a week to fully open. Once it was...I just enjoyed the ride down. I liked it so much that I did it quite often.
    Yea I know what you mean, around 200 in my log book,
    I've been jumping since .92
    "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
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  12. #12
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    The perception of things happening in slow motion during a "close encounter" or a fear based response is called Tachypsychia, and it is just that. A perception! Things are actually happening at an incredibly fast pace. Not only for you, but for the BG as well.

    While there have been many studies on the phenomenon, it is often misunderstood and frequently mischaracterized.

    The person I have found that seems to have the best grasp on it, especially in how it pertains to people involved in a gunfight or any life or death situation is Massad Ayoob. In his 2 hour video Physio-Psychological Aspects of Violent Encounters Ayoob goes into great detail of how the effects of Tachypsychia as well as other phenomenon such as tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, amaurosis fugax, cognitive dissonance as well as denial response affects people who are suddenly placed in a life or death experience, such as those experienced during gunfights.

    Not only does he explain the scientific knowledge and how it applies... he does so in terms that everyone can understand. As a plus, he uses numerous examples of actual gunfight experience from survivors that have experienced each of the phenomenon that is laid out in the video. With each phenomenon that he explains, Ayoob shows you the pitfalls associated with experiancing such phenomenon and how to overcome it, or use it to your advantage, whatever the case may be. The real life case studies of how the phenomenon comes into play when people experience it is knowledge you can not find anywhere else.

    The video is $34.95 and is available in VHS & DVD and is over 2 hours of invaluable training and information that can not be found anywhere else.

    I have this video and consider it a must have training video for anyone that carries a gun. You will not be disappointed! In fact, I think you will be amazed at what you learn and will remember times in your life where you may have experienced some of the phenomenon he describes but did not know what it was and why it happened.

    You will also understand why people in the aftermath of a shooting incident, often times make the statements they sometimes do, and often to their detriment when talking to investigating officers after a shooting and how to avoid those pitfalls.

    If you are ever charged after a self defense shooting, for whatever reason, understanding the phenomenon discribed in this video, how it affects people and how to explain it in court, may very well, keep you from going to prison!

    You can purchase the video from Ayoob at Police Bookshelf here.

    Probably one of the best last minute christmas presents you can get for yourself, which could actually save your life one day!

    Stay Safe!
    -Bark'n
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  13. #13
    Member Array Danger Mouse's Avatar
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    I find this interesting as I saw on the telly the other day a documentary on DB Cooper. They documented about the same thing, that a persons perception of time changes when under stress and when test subjects were asked to jump from a plane at the same speed and altitude as DB Cooper did many of them were so far off on their count down to release their parachute that it could had have dire consequences. They done this under controlled enviroment so they really were not in danger, but if they had not been, SPLAT!!
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    Senior Member Array Sergeant Mac's Avatar
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    Tachypsychia is very real.

    Don't get me wrong - your BODY doesn't move any faster.

    ...but your MIND sure does.

    Something about that experiment had to be wrong. For instance, was the "stopwatch" in a different place than the "threat"? You'll be naturally inclined to focus upon the threat, to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Maybe a BIG display underneath the net would have yielded different results.

  15. #15
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    When I was mugged at gunpoint the cone of vision to the barrel of the 22 made it look like a 105. I was surprised at how fast thoughts and images flashed through my mind. Yes, it was my whole life, but at the time I was a college student. Now I may have to make a BG wait a little longer while 60+ years unfolds:) Pre-living the scenario would have been better than re-living it, as it affects one psychologically for the rest of your life. Now I suspect I would react much differently, and I would use the apparent slow-down in time to great advantage.
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    ("Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.")
    -Virgil, Aeneid, vi, 95

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