Why Time Flies

Everyday routine makes the day pass quickly.

By Susan A. Smith, published on May 1, 2004 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

What color is your underwear? Where did you park your car? You
probably can't quite remember, and according to a recent study, it's
because everyday routines cause our brains to click to autopilot, making
the days seem to pass more quickly.

Dinah Avni-Babad, a psychologist at the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, found that while we rarely remember routine actions, new
experiences become more embedded into our memories. Even though it seems
counterintuitive, routine is a form of inaction, she says. "When you tell
people routine makes things go faster they say, 'Hmm. Can't be.'"

It helps to think of routine as a straight line in one's memory,
she explains. New experiences cause the line to be jagged, packed with
new perceptions. This "straight line" effect accounts for the old adage
that time passes more quickly as we age. We simply encounter fewer new
experiences as we grow old. "The days feel much, much longer when you're
a child," she says.

Want time to pass more slowly? Shake up your life, suggests
Avni-Babad. Her study appears in the Journal of Experimental