If the brain sped up when in danger, the researchers theorized, numbers on the perceptual chronometers would appear slow enough to read while volunteers fell. Instead, the scientists found that volunteers could not read the numbers at faster-than-normal speeds.
"We discovered that people are not like Neo in The Matrix, dodging bullets in slow-mo," Eagleman said.
Instead, such time warping seems to be a trick played by one's memory. When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain. "In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and denser memories," Eagleman explained. "And the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took."
Eagleman added this illusion "is related to the phenomenon that time seems to speed up as you grow older. When you're a child, you lay down rich memories for all your experiences; when you're older, you've seen it all before and lay down fewer memories. Therefore, when a child looks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lasted forever; adults think it zoomed by."
Never mind physical (un)responsiveness; does your experience last longer when scared? Do you obtain more pleasure and pain by time seeming to you to pass slower? Does this give us additional reason to bring joy to children (and give less priority to aiding the elderly)?
I'm beginning to think that the way to count or measure an experience is not through its objective duration at all, but simply its richness of representational content (which may better reflect felt duration in any case). This may support my claim that multiple experiences matter less the less qualitatively different they are. Merely repeating the same old information over and over again does nothing to enrich the representation, after all.