In a lifelong experiment, using myself as the subject, I have found conclusively that I am incapable of estimating how long five minutes takes, or ten, or twenty, or two. My accuracy varies dramatically, including, it must be said, forgetting at I was supposed to keeping track of the time.
From a human perspective, this can clearly cause damage in one’s life. An egg boiled for 20 minutes instead of six. Your mother waiting at the airport for you to pick her up, while you’re still reading a book at home.
And yet I also have conclusive evidence, under certain circumstances, I can get the time right to the near micro-second, every time.
You might be thinking this could be related to the weather (am I better on warm days… or cold), or perhaps to the shoes I am wearing (ok, they are mostly Prada, but could have been an important variable), or the brand of watch on my wrist. After collecting an immense data set and factoring out these variables, and more, I have found the answer: I use the timer on my iPhone or the egg timer in the kitchen.
It turns out that I, like many humans, use tools to make up for our weaknesses and inadequacies. We cannot fly, so we travel in airplanes. We cannot shout across the ocean, so we use the phone. And now, in a major scientific breakthrough, I can report that people who struggle to keep time can use an electronic timer, such as those helpfully built into just about every device we now carry around with us.
So, now, anyone who knows me who thinks it important to criticize my timekeeping merely needs to ask: “have you set a timer?” The more helpful among you may even set one for me.
And the miracle of this research is that it can be replicated … for other time-challenge people too. Yes! That’s right!
Follow up research may include topics such as:
If the timer is set for a long period of time.. do you forget the reason for setting the timer
If your timer has a snooze button, how likely are you to ignore it
And if you really get distracted (as I sometimes do), how far away do you need to be from your timer gadget in order to be able to hear it
Happy to share this research today – inspired by Quirkology and being asked to water the plants for 15 minutes.