Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Short People Got No Reason....(to gripe)

That's not how the song goes, but according to a recent NPR podcast, a recent neuroscience study shows that short people actually may experience things more quickly than tall people. Really, it's more an experiment about the subjective nature of time than about tall vs. short -- from the same neuroscientist who brought us the Possibilitarian movement, Dr. David Eagleman combines psychophysical, behavioral, and computational approaches to understand the neural mechanisms of time perception. For example, touch your nose and toe at the same time. (Humor me, will you?) ... Did you feel the touch at the same time? I did. But if you think about it, shouldn't the signal from the toe take a tiny bit longer longer to get to your brain? After all, your nose is on your face, which is closer to your brain. So shouldn't you have felt the touch on your nose first?

Eagleman calls this phenomenon "temporal binding": the brain manages to synchronize what's happening even though sensory data comes through your eyes, ears, tongue and skin at slightly different times and speeds. According to Eagleman, it may be that our sensory perception of the world has to wait for the slowest piece of information to arrive; "Given conduction times along limbs, this leads to the bizarre but testable suggestion that tall people may live further in the past than short people."

To listen to the entire podcast, click here, and to read more about subjective time versus neural time, click here. And to learn more about Eagleman's Lab for Perception and Action, click here.

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