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Axemusica's avatar

Do you know if there's a word for this? (please read details)?

Asked by Axemusica (9477points) April 8th, 2010
40 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

Ok, I’m sure everyone who’s lived an active childhood knows this feeling, but is there an actual word for it?

The feeling is this:
You’re skateboarding, riding a bike, jumping on a trampoline, something that involves you moving at some sort of speed. Then something goes wrong. You can see this happening in a sort of “Slo-Mo” effect and you keep thinking during those few seconds, which seem like an eternity, “This is probably going to hurt, really bad.”

Is there a word for this certain moment or feeling, right before you have impact?

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Dr_Lawrence's avatar

deja vue probably applies here

XOIIO's avatar

What you are talking about seems like a short adrenaline burst, soeeding up your though process, making things seem slower. This happens to me a lot.

Axemusica's avatar

@XOIIO what you’re talking about could be the process behind this effect, but I dunno. I’m looking for the word for this moment, or effect of Slo-Mo-ness. We discussing it in chat, because I had a theory about it, but don’t know how to search for a term relating to this effect.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I think it’s called subjective time perception. When you go through a normal day, you’re functioning in neutral time, unless you’re late, in which case you hurry up because you have an anticipation of needing to. When you have an unforeseen accident, your brain anticipates the impact, but slows your perception of time to delay that impact.

Interesting question!

Perhaps the correct term is subjective time distortion.

DominicX's avatar

It’s a sense of impending catastrophe and disbelief at it. I remember feeling my bike slip as I accidentally rode through that small pile of leaves; I felt it begin to fall and I knew that I couldn’t stop it and the only thing that awaited me was pain. It was kind of a “No! This can’t be happening! I refuse to accept this!” type of feeling.

Axemusica's avatar

Really good answer @PandoraBoxx, but I still can’t find much about “subjective time perception” either. I still liked your answer nonetheless.

Exactly @DominicX! We’re trying to find the word for it though.

I thought since defenestrate is a word, then there should be a word for this right?

Jeruba's avatar

I know the feeling and have experienced it, but have never seen it given a name of its own.

nope's avatar

There’s definitely a word for that. It may even be in the dictionary, if not it will be soon. It’s “ohshit”.

Axemusica's avatar

It’s definitively an “oh shit” moment @nope, but unfortunately that’s not a word.

Axemusica's avatar

Ok, after you edited your response @PandoraBoxx with that link. I skimmed through it and found this,

“It is clear that the brain exploits knowledge of elapsed time to anticipate sensory events and to prepare appropriate actions. Collectively, this research begins to shed light on features of time perception and its neural bases. Timing is critical to almost every behavior we engage in, from neural computation to driving a car to playing piano.”

Now, though this event in someone consciousness may exist, I think they’re studying the effect of time in everyday activities in general, including the one I described.

So does this mean this question is un-answerable?

nope's avatar

@Axemusica I’m not so sure about that…I’ve seen a definition here!

Axemusica's avatar

I’m sorry @nope, but Urbandictionary is not a credited dictionary, if ya know what I mean. Nice try though.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

The whole idea of how your brain perceives time is really interesting. I wonder if the correct term would be chronostasis although it’s not an exact fit. There can be both visual and auditory chronostasis. Auditory chronostasis would be when you’re talking on a cell phone, and there is a perceived lag between what you’re hearing and what you know the person is going to say. Visual chronostasis has been studied in terms of watch hands seeming to stand still.

Edit: it appears you can have manual or tactile chronostasis as well.

Axemusica's avatar

ooooh @PandoraBoxx I really like that word, but that’s not a word either. Although, I really like where your head is at, hehe. I think to sharpen up you’re wordsmithing, I’d have to say, Anti-Elapse-Chrono-stasis. If they haven’t found a word for it yet, I think we should have first dibs! haha

DarkScribe's avatar


There is no single word for the “time in suspension” feeling that you describe – but I think that we have all experienced it. (There is probably a word for it in German…)

I used to race Motocross and on occasion as you are about to make a bad landing – everything seems so slow, and all vision seems so bright and intense that you have time to hold internal conversations before impact. I recall once being hit by a car and flying through the air, spinning and noting that the car had a sizable dent in its front fender and thinking to myself. “Hmmm, I think that I made that dent – I’ll bet I have got some broken bones.” I was right – I did.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Would you think that it would be the same thing as how slowly time passes when you’re “clock watching” and the last 5 minutes seem to take forever?

With an accident, you have an involuntary interruption in your anticipated projection of time coupled with a projection of the outcome—you know that you’re going to fly through the air, and can sense and visualize the impact before it happens.

I think you do own the word!

augustlan's avatar

I propose we make one up. Surely we can come up with something perfect!

Axemusica's avatar

@PandoraBoxx no, I don’t think it’s the same as feeling as though the clock is slow. Usually when time is going by slowly in someones day, it’s because of their lack of wanting to be there and they’re so aware of the time that it just seem like it’s slow. When having fun time seems like it’s really fast as if there wasn’t enough time when the fun began.

This on the other hand actually feels like you can see things in slow motion. I can remember a few times that it’s happened to me and I actually had time to think, “Oh fuck this is going to hurt, why why why why why?” during this time I had no idea of the time, but before impact does seem like the same feeling of “this is taking forever”, so I don’t know.

So far @augustlan I think I did come up with a good word. It doesn’t sound practical to use in a conversation, but does make moderate sense nonetheless.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

In Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, he states that what creates happiness is not the attainment of an item, or an actual event taking place, but the anticipation of the the event. If you win a free dinner for two, you generally don’t go out right away and eat the meal. The fun comes in telling people you won something, deciding who you’re going to take, thinking about what you’re going to order, etc. You project forward what you’re going to do and what it’s going to be like. The happiness lies in the planning and thinking about what the event will be like. Things do happen in real life that will interfere with the planning—you have a headache, the person you’re with is cross, the restaurant is out of the dish you planned on ordering, etc.

When you’re skateboarding, riding a bike, driving, etc. you have a neutral time perception because you know based on past experience what the time sensation is for what you’ve planned on doing. You have an idea of how long it’s going to take you to get from point A to point B and what the sequence of steps is. When something goes wrong with what you’re doing, and that planned sequence of anticipated events is interrupted, then your brain has to re-sequence the events to match what you now anticipate as the outcome. You have a delay as you switch from neutral sequence to the new sequence.

Axemusica's avatar

@PandoraBoxx I follow that. That makes sense. Kind of like, “oops change of plans”. So, I guess next time I’m flying through the air thinking, “Damn it, now what do I do?” I should actually be thinking, “I guess we’ve decided to go with plan ouch.” lol

It just amazes me, that they’re just now studying this. See, my theory had something to do with the SuperString theory and quantum physics, about how everything is merely tied together. Meaning, we had control of the new sequence so to speak, but can’t think of what to do with it at the time.

….or maybe I’m just putting to much thought into it, lol.

davidbetterman's avatar


ucme's avatar

I’d keep it simple fear/panic seems to be fairly appropriate.Emotive words to describe exactly what you’re feeling in that moment.

Cruiser's avatar


stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I like @PandoraBoxx s description as “subjective time perception”. It may be our brains modifying memory after the fact. Several life threatening incidents in my life I remember in slow motion (a motorcycle crash and an incident with a landmine), but it may just be the way my brain stores traumatic images. It’s not “static” (stopped), but slowed down.

Another possibilty is that, when in a crisis situation, our minds and bodies draw on a reserve that makes us react faster. By comparison, other things around us are moving more slowly and that’s the way our brains percieve it.

wundayatta's avatar

Presage? As he fell, he had a presage of the pain he would soon be feeling.

Foreboding? As he fell, time slowed, a foreboding feeling about the anticipated impact filled him.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Time isn’t linear. Why does it have to your perception of time, and not the actual speed of it?

CMaz's avatar

Popular Science just did a story on this. I believe it was last months issue.
Its called TIme Preception or Time Dilation.

David Eagleman a Neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine did a study.

Basically what happens, is your mind stores that information. recalling it. When something changes, the mind needs a moment to re adjust.

The example give is this…

“If every time you flip on the lights there is a 200-millisecond delay, your brain recognizes the pattern and edits out the delay, Flip the switch, and the lights seem to turn on instantaneously. But if you moved to a funky house where the lights really did come on instantaneously, it would appear that they came on before you flipped the switch, Your brain is temporarily stuck on the old patter.”

Axemusica's avatar

Yes, @stranger_in_a_strange_land I do believe that @PandoraBoxx might have discovered the correct term, but it seems as though there’s not actually a word for this event. Where’s @mattbrowne when we need him, lol.

@wundayatta I do believe those would be excellent words for knowing that the pain will be inevitable, but where actually looking for this perceived change in time lapse.

@tragiclikebowie Because we know time isn’t linear, but this effect changes our perception of time and is quite interesting.

@ChazMaz would you happen to know a link to that article? I wouldn’t mind reading it. I think you’re on the right track as well.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

All I know is that I feel like my stomach goes to the ground. I don’t really see things in slo-mo. I know, I’m strange :)

Axemusica's avatar

Nice @davidbetterman I like the last posters explanation. To me that sounds like the fundamentals relativity have changed due to the laws of reality. Did I say that right? lol. Time Dilation would still not factor in to this equation, since it takes an outside observer, when in actuality the observer is the one flying through the air seeming to have enough time to have a mini conversation with himself as @DarkScribe described, loved the article though.

davidbetterman's avatar

@Axemusica lol…yes, Darkscribe’s description is totally rad…

Apparently the time dilation experienced personally during a crisis situation and that described in the theory of relativity are slightly different..

DarkScribe's avatar

I have often wondered after several of these experiences if it is where the belief that when one is dying, their life passes before their eyes. You certainly do experience a “slow motion” physical effect while at the same time “sped-up” mental acuity.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is a very rare German word for it: Ewigkeitsmoment literally meaning a ‘moment of eternity’.

Axemusica's avatar

@mattbrowne sweet thanks :)

Axemusica's avatar

Ok @ChazMaz I got around to reading the article (thanks to @PandoraBoxx) and it is quite interesting. I checkout the web site too, but there wasn’t much more on the actual tests, in which I was curious in. Do you know of a book about this? I would be interested in reading more about it. A simple question turned into a fantastic scientific adventure, haha. I’m quite intrigued.

Also, @DarkScribe, that’s an interesting idea. Maybe this has to do with the release of endorphins? Could be a possibility.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

David Eagleman has a book called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives that sounds interesting.

He also co-authored Wednesday is Indigo Blue

Ludy's avatar

An “oh, oh” moment

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