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One “dog year” supposedly equals seven human years. But does one year feel like seven years to a dog? Evidence suggests that distinct species do indeed experience passing time on different scales. A recent study in Animal Behavior reveals that body mass and metabolic rate determine how animals of different species perceive time.
Time perception depends on how rapidly an animal's nervous system processes sensory information. To test this ability, researchers show animals a rapidly flashing light. If the light flashes quickly enough, animals (and humans) perceive it as a solid, unblinking light. The animal's behavior or its brain activity, as measured by electrodes, reveals the highest frequency at which each species perceives the light as flashing. Animals that can detect the blinking at higher frequencies are perceiving time at a finer resolution. In other words, movements and events will appear to unfold more slowly to them—think slow-motion bullet dodging in an action movie.