The Motion of Accidents

People in movies, and even some real people, will say attest that when in an accident or witnessing an accident, everything appears to be in slow motion. Movies, especially the new ones with their sophisticated cameras and high-frame rates will have you see how things happen in slow motion. With the advent of HD displays, almost everything seems to move in slow motion in crystal clarity.

It doesn’t, however. The accident,  I mean. It never happens in slow motion, nor can we recall it in slow motion.


If you have ever been in or witnessed an accident or a similar event, everything actually seems to happen faster than normal. Or, maybe it’s just me. Things happen so fast, there isn’t enough time to register each moment. I think what most people speak of, when they say, they remember it in slow motion, is actually a deliberate recreation. Slow motion is make-believe. There is a sense of romanticism of the time and event, attached to the fluidity of it all, which allows us to luxuriously indulge in the moment.

I like slow motion, but it isn’t real.



2 thoughts on “The Motion of Accidents

  1. This is actually a fascinating topic of great interest in neuroscience. Research suggests that the *perception* of slow-motion during such situations is actually quite real both during and after the event.

    During the event, our mind attains superlative levels of cognition in order to be able to quickly process multiple complex stimuli and quickly make decisions that may ultimately determine survival. This heightened cognitive state leads to distortion between internal (perceived) and external (real) time.

    After the event, the event seems to have been in slow-motion because our minds have extraordinarily densely packed memories (because of the heightened state of cognition) within a short span of time, which makes us perceive that the event happened in slow-motion.

    These research papers are easily accessible online if you’re interested in further reading.


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