Everyone who has seen the Matrix remembers that awesome scene where Neo dodges several bullets in slow motion using some amazing agility. It turns out, there may be some real life consistencies with that scene. During a crisis, (such as a car accident) people have reported time going by in slow motion. According to Wikipedia, someone standing on the side of the street would see the crash happen in a normal, extremely quick fashion. But to the person/people inside the car, they would perceive time to go by slower, allowing them to analyze the situation and make decisions much faster than they would otherwise be able to. But is time really slowing down for some people and not for others?
According to psychcentral.com, an experiment was conducted in which participants dive off of a platform 150 feet in the air into a safety net below. The divers are calculated to reach a falling velocity of 70 mph during 3 seconds of falling. Staff recorded how long it took the person to fall, and the people were asked how long they felt they were falling. A majority of the responses said that they fell for longer than they actually did. Participants also wore a watch-like device that flashed numbers that could be easily read while free-falling. The researchers found that while the participants could read the numbers normally while falling, they could not read them faster than normal.
Using these data points, the researchers arrived at the conclusion that, no, time does not slow down for people in a crisis. What is actually happening is that the brain remembers everything with exquisite detail. The participants just think that the fall is lasting longer because the brain is aware of everything happening and is trying to grab a handle on the situation. So the phenomenon of time slowing down only occurs after the fact in the person’s recollection of the event.
This study really shows one of the interesting ways our brains work. Whether it’s about how thy store memories, how many memories it can hold, how it learns new things, or how it perceives time, it just goes to show that our brains are extremely complex and have many different quirks about them that we are still learning about.