Via the venerable “Mind Hacks” blog.

I have often felt that when I am teaching, time moves much more quickly than when I am doing admin or other activities. It also seems to me that when my students are really engaged and excited about a lesson, it makes the lesson seem shorter. If a lesson falls a little flat, it can seem to take forever.

The old adage “Time flies when you’re having fun” has actually been tested and proven genuine. The Time-Emotion paradox as it is called is the subject of a recent article.

The passage of time seems to vary depending on whether the subject is in an unpleasant or pleasant context. It drags when being criticized by the boss but flies by when discussing with our friends. That is the time–emotion paradox: why given that we possess a sophisticated time measurement mechanism, are we so inaccurate in our temporal judgements when experiencing emotions?

Back when I was staying in the UK and working outside the field of education in a consultancy role I used to find my office days dragging by rather slowly. I thought that this was because I found this type of job less enjoyable but it turns out that there may have been another factor in the Time-Emotion Paradox at play. Another study suggests that spending time surrounded by young faces also speeds up perception of duration;

The present study investigated the perception of stimulus durations represented by elderly faces or by young faces. In a temporal bisection task, participants classified intermediate durations as more similar to a short or a long reference duration. The results showed that the durations represented by elderly faces were less often classified as “long” than the durations represented by young faces.

I always suspected that teaching was the recipe for job satisfaction.

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