Felt Time

Felt Time

The Psychology of How We Perceive Time

By Marc Wittmann

Translated by Erik Butler

An expert explores the riddle of subjective time, from why time speeds up as we grow older to the connection between time and consciousness.





An expert explores the riddle of subjective time, from why time speeds up as we grow older to the connection between time and consciousness.

We have widely varying perceptions of time. Children have trouble waiting for anything. (“Are we there yet?”) Boredom is often connected to our sense of time passing (or not passing). As people grow older, time seems to speed up, the years flitting by without a pause. How does our sense of time come about? In Felt Time, Marc Wittmann explores the riddle of subjective time, explaining our perception of time—whether moment by moment, or in terms of life as a whole. Drawing on the latest insights from psychology and neuroscience, Wittmann offers a new answer to the question of how we experience time.

Wittmann explains, among other things, how we choose between savoring the moment and deferring gratification; why impulsive people are bored easily, and why their boredom is often a matter of time; whether each person possesses a personal speed, a particular brain rhythm distinguishing quick people from slow people; and why the feeling of duration can serve as an “error signal,” letting us know when it is taking too long for dinner to be ready or for the bus to come. He considers the practice of mindfulness, and whether it can reduce the speed of life and help us gain more time, and he describes how, as we grow older, subjective time accelerates as routine increases; a fulfilled and varied life is a long life. Evidence shows that bodily processes—especially the heartbeat—underlie our feeling of time and act as an internal clock for our sense of time. And Wittmann points to recent research that connects time to consciousness; ongoing studies of time consciousness, he tells us, will help us to understand the conscious self.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262034029 184 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 11 b&w illus.


Erik Butler.


  • Felt Time eloquently sketches out the importance of time, both in the darkness of the lab and in the full light of everyday behaviour.


  • ... [A] fascinating inquiry into how our subjective experience of time's passage shapes everything from our emotional memory to our sense of self.

    Maria Popova

    Brain Pickings


  • Reading Wittmann's refreshing book, one cannot do but take time—digging deeply into the brain's neuronal basis of our sometimes illusory experiences of time while immersing oneself in the various philosophical conceptions of time. A must read in our time-stressed times.

    Georg Northoff, MD, PhD, FRCP

    University of Ottawa, author of Unlocking the Brain and Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind: Learning from the Unwell Brain

  • A fascinating and engaging tour of the psychology of time. The insights Wittmann provides into our complex relationship to time gradually build up to an intriguing and sometimes surprising picture, in which our experience of time holds the key to everything from making good decisions to living a fulfilled life.

    Christoph Hoerl

    Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick

  • Time is a fundamental factor that shapes human life and behavior. In Felt Time, Marc Wittmann presents the topic of time and demonstrates its important role. This is done by discussing behavior, brain research, and philosophical dilemmas and by showing how they are connected to each other. Felt Time is a must for anyone, layman or expert, who wishes to better understand human behavior and its meaning. Wittmann has done a wonderful job in describing complex issues and making them simple and easy to understand.

    Dan Zakay

    Professor, Department of Psychology, Tel-Aviv University