Subjective Acceleration of Time Experience in Everyday Life Across Adulthood

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Abstract

Most people believe that time seems to pass more quickly as they age. Building on assumptions of socioemotional selectivity theory, we investigated whether awareness that one’s future lifetime is limited is associated with one’s experience of time during everyday activities across adulthood in 3 studies. In the first 2 studies (Study 1: N = 608; Study 2: N = 398), participants completed a web-based version of the day reconstruction method. In Study 3 (N = 392) participants took part in a newly developed tomorrow construction method, a web-based experimental method for assessing everyday life plans. Results confirmed that older adults’ subjective interpretation of everyday episodes is that these episodes pass more quickly compared with younger adults. The subjective acceleration of time experience in old age was more pronounced during productive activities than during regenerative-consumptive activities. The age differences were partly related to limited time remaining in life. In addition, subjective acceleration of time experience was associated with positive evaluations of everyday activities. Findings suggest that subjective acceleration of time in older adults’ daily lives reflects an adaptation to limitations in time remaining in life.

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