With notions of subjective time (i.e. time as empirically inert) like those put forward by Berkeley, Hume, Leibniz and Kant, is there anything out there which speculates on the potential for a varied individual experience of time? Ideally anything in the same vein as the questions below.

  • Can someone be more or less perceptive of time, generally?
  • What kinds of implications does this have on the individual experience?
  • Also, if varied experiences of time can potentially exist, what kinds of implications does this have for complex societies (made up of many individuals having varied temporal experiences) where time regulates a majority of its activities?

On the other hand, has anyone instead made a case for why this should not be of any concern?

Thank you for the answers

EDIT: This paper seems to be a fantastic foundation for the kinds of things I am looking for.

  • Tomas you might enjoy the second half of this: youtu.be/XCwU2j17VLc
    – Al Brown
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 23:24
  • See, the philosopher Henri Bergson, see also Marcel Proust his “In Search of Lost Time”.
    – Gordon
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 3:01

3 Answers 3


Does Kahneman in 'Thinking Fast & Slow' count?

'Flow' states have been linked to ceasing to sense time passing.

Time is widely found to subjectively go faster with age. It's notable huge, epic experiences are had by DMT users in very short times, & that substance seems to be tapping in to a increasing-neuroplasticity and synaptogenisis pathway. We can picture this as 'opening the flood gates' to sensory experience, and it's notable children are also much open to experiences too. We might write-off so much as 'I already know how x will go' as we get old, that like a familiar car journey it gets kind of edited out of our memory. Psilocybin seems to have a similar potential among patients near-to-death, in helping them adapt to their new situation, and make the most of remaining time.

I'd note another factor with children, that 'opening the floodgates', having neurplasticity 'enabled', might risk a kind of painful boredom that adults tend to have forgotten about.

There are well known cultural variations. Within cultures, there's an interesting thing about whether 'move the event-date forward' means sooner, or later - people are surprisingly split on this. Can't locate research that mentioned that right now.

Lots of interesting experiments & discussion here: What we get wrong about time

The Kurzgesacht channel video 'The Egg' has an interesting take on time and identity.

Some relevant discussions on this SE:

Is there such thing as the present?

Is the human mind capable of distinguishing between time running forward and time runing backward?

Is perception of time completely subjective?

Could space be just our perceived reality instead of the true nature of the universe?

Is time more "real" than math and, if so, why?

How does biological evolution work in the block universe/b-theory of time?

Edited to add: Ok, these might get a bit closer.

Mindscape episode 140 | Dean Buonomano on Time, Reality, and the Brain

Mindscape Episode 80 | Jenann Ismael on Connecting Physics to the World of Experience

  • Thank you for all the links and words! However, my question is less about circumstantial variation in the individual's temporal experience (like Khaneman's) and more about our predominant experience of time as individuals and its disparities in collectivity. Thanks again, a lot of interesting stuff here (still reading through the links)!
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 14:54
  • 1
    I wonder if people agree on the meaning of moving something back, that is, away? If back is away, then forward must be... But then, people don't always do things reasonably. We could use the words 'closer' and 'farther' instead.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 10:47
  • @ScottRowe: Yeah - there's a well known divide in how people interpret 'move the meeting forward', which Lera Boroditsky's research covered, & which she discusses in the Mindscape episode: 'Language Thought Space & Time' youtu.be/XhEvqGkNnrw
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 15:09
  • We should definitely 'table' this.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 16:36
  • @ScottRowe: How 'chair-it able' of you. (I am assuming you are referencing conceptual chunking)
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 18:47

Interesting question. 👍🏻

As an economist, we regularly aggregate individuals into collectives (called economies, or labor markets, or demand, etc.). Hence I can say something about that. Social psychology is the other field that sometimes actually rigorously aggregates individuals into collectives. I don’t know of any other field that does so, although they do of course talk about groups and members in qualitative ways in many field from politics to history to philosophy. But as for rigorous and even mathematical aggregating to the level that could account for the aspect you mention, no.

That said, even economics mostly and social psychology completely exclude personal experiences of time as primitives in any models. The exception is trading models where participants can react more or less quickly, but that’s pretty simple. We also have areas where other primitives would be AFFECTED by that. For example, someone’s utility for leisure (how much they value it) or disutility for labor. Or a consumer’s “willingness to pay” for reductions in waiting. Or even someone’s productivity would be affected. (Forgive all the sentences starting with conjunctions). As far as I know (and I might not know as it’s a big field), no one has looked exclusively at varying individual subjective experiences of the passage of time as it affects a group in any field at all, not just philosophy (although philosophy has its detailed qualitative interpretation of shared experience).

Many people dont realize that marketing is a very rigorous field of scientific study in academics. If theres any area where it has been done that I dont know about, Im guessing there. (Well Im sure some models have included for decades different preferences for waiting, as mentioned, but beyond that I mean).

Could be very interesting.

  • Appreciate the response. This is the right interpretation of the question. If there were any area considering this, I would have assumed something concrete in economics or sociology. If you come across anything relevant, would love to hear about it. Thanks again
    – Tomas
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 14:34
  • @Tomas a paper i just saw implementing limited attention and seeing if certain group behavior economic and theorems still hold (very theortical political theorems that is) if interested: economics.yale.edu/sites/default/files/matejka-140218.pdf
    – Al Brown
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 5:29
  • 1
    You are definitely understanding where I'm coming from with this question, @AlBrown. Slowly mulling my way through this, but while it doesn't directly address individual variation in time perception, it does address another area of interest: information (particularly information dynamics within populations). Certainly interesting, thanks again
    – Tomas
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 0:24

To give my own take, build on CriglCragl's answer, and provide some empirical evidence; yes, time can be subjectively experienced differently by different people.


The most obvious examples are Boredom and Flow. Bored people say time flows slower, while those experiencing Flow make reference to how fast the time has gone.

Those who grow older and older discover that their perception of time also appears to be speeding up.


However, such states can be induced artificially with drugs, too. For example, the feeling of a "fast forward through darkness" when one goes through general anaesthesia. The slow-mo of stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, the flow-like zip of an opiate nod.

My Experience

A while ago, I took DMT, and experienced a state I describe as "timelessness". Many people describe psychedelic experiences as feeling "infinite" but I feel that's the wrong word.

Infinity would first imply that it never ends, and that subjectively that's what was experienced. This is patently incorrect. Instead, I would describe it as total ignorance of Time, in all perceptual vectors. Not merely the ignorance of not looking at the clock, but the certitude that a clock would be of no value in this state. Time is just as bizarre a concept in that mental state as dragons and magic; it doesn't exist.


In my opinion, the implications of this are difficult to nail down. It certainly appears that yes, we can and do experience time in different ways, but it also appears that this doesn't seem to matter much day to day.

Humans and society appear to be quite content existing and continuing to exist in spite of this perceptual curiosity.

We must however concede that some perceptual models of time are not beneficial to humans or society. If everyone walked around in that state of timelessness, I suspect we would struggle to get anything done at all.


We should also consider the compatibility of certain perceptual experiences of time, if we're talking about society.

For an on-the-nose example; one person who is Bored and another who is in Flow are unlikely to exhibit much cohesion; the models are incompatible because Bored is experiencing a great amount of pain at the perception of time being wasted, while Flow has no desire to change the current state of affairs. Flow will resist Bored's attempts to change the ongoing activity to one more mutually agreeable in terms of time perception.

Another example is age; the old phrase "youth is wasted on the young" had a fair slice of truth in it.

An older person who experiences the passing of days more quickly is likely to be more cogent of mortality. The young famously have no such compunctions, often described as acting as if "invincible" or "immortal".


The common thread in the above is this; your perceptual model of time affects your decision-making process when choosing to spend it.

Which is a roundabout way of saying the big conclusion, which is: your perceptual model of time affects how you live your life.

What the exact implications of this are, I'll leave to a sociologist.

  • Thank you for replying. You hit my question right on the head with your final statement, "what the exact implications of this are". Any kind of theoretical or experimental understanding of this in particular is of interest to me (even if it all says "it doesn't matter")
    – Tomas
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 0:10
  • You're very welcome, thank you for reading! I'm glad to have been any help :) Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 6:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .