That weird stuck moment in time.

Why, when I look at a clock that shows seconds, does the first second that I see seem to take much longer than the subsequent seconds? It doesn’t matter if it’s digital or a second hand on a traditional clock. I look at it and for a moment it seems like it’s stuck on that second before falling into rhythm.

Does anyone else have this perception? Is it a legitimate phenomenon or what?

When you glance at the clock, sometimes it’s right after the second changed, and sometimes it’s just before the second changes, and sometimes it’s somewhere in between. On average, it’ll be a half-second between when you glance at the clock, and when the second changes. So that’s what you’re used to, and that’s what you think of as “normal” when you glance at a clock: It normally takes about a half second after you glance to see it change. But if, in actuality, your glance happened to be right at the beginning of that second, it’ll take almost twice that long before it changes. So it looks stuck.

It’s not just about our expectations - it’s partly caused by the way our vision and perception works - we don’t perceive scenes in the same way as a movie camera records it (i.e. full frames at every interval) - our perception is a highly complex patchwork mishmash of different systems functioning partly independently of one another (this is why it’s possible to suffer a brain injury that affects, for example, only the perception of moving objects, but not static ones, or only affects our perception of faces).

We actually ‘see’ a composite model of the world (not the world itself), constructed by these systems. It can include alarming gaps and fictions.

There’s quite a lengthy explanation of the stopped clock thing here:

There’s also a Vsauce video:

I would say 90% of my knowledge comes from educational youtube videos.

So glad that I’m not the only one. THANKS.

Also glad that I finally remembered to ask this after months of forgetting. It only seemed to occur to me when I was away from my computer. I call that phenomenon “Dope Blanking.”

That saccadic masking mentioned in the video is why in the movies, a camera movement from one point to another is done either really slowly or with a whip pan.* A moderately fast pan is really uncomfortable, as anyone who’s watched home movies by someone who doesn’t know this little fact can attest to.

*Or a cut, which simulates the masking.

Sometimes when I glance quickly at the analog clock in my office, it looks like the second hand jumps backwards for an instant and then goes forward. I thought it was the gremlins messing with me.

Also, “Chronostasis” just screams “Prog Rock Album.”

Or it could be a glitch in the Matrix…Be on the look out for people wearing black leather and sunglasses.

Great thread.

  1. Username/OP alert
  2. “Dope blanking” is related to “Dope swamping,” in which every interesting thought or query becomes “I gotta ask the Dope about that,” and further examination of the thought is dropped.

I’m bumping this thread because of another question it has raised for me. Since chronostasis is the result of your brain seeing what it expects instead of what really exists, is it responsible for those double-take occasions when you see someone you know but it turns out to be a different but visually similar person? There have been times when i’m out and about when I see a friend or acquaintance. So I start to say hi, but suddenly see that it is not them at all but someone else of roughly similar appearance. It’s so weird when it happens.

It will? Show your work.

This happens to me as well. I’m convinced it’s when I pop into a different but 99.999% the same universe.

I’ll do it for him.
If you glance a a clock, there is a 50% chance that the second hand will be greater than halfway to the next second, and a 50% chance that it will be less than halfway, agreed? If you do this enough times, the average position of the hand is exactly halfway.

I wanted to post a link to a thread I started about this very subject, but the thread is so old even Advanced Search won’t let me find it.

I’ve just had a thought: Does the phenomenon happen with the old-fashioned electric clock with a sweep second hand instead of one that steps? I think not.

If the second hand is a smooth rotation it can still happen but the heisenberg uncertainty principle from quantum mechanics also applies for our world too.

In this case you have several factors that are in play and the interaction between our limits of perception as described in the concept of chronostasis will also interact with generalized limitations as described in the uncertainty principle.

Basically a sweeping second hand is always moving, you are more uncertain of the position, especially when the observation duration are short. In fact even if we could remove the chronostasis effects, when you first look at a “ticking” second hand this uncertainty principle will actually make it hard to tell how fast it is moving or the rate of the ticking.

As HowSoonIsThen pointed out, youtube is a great resource for developing intuitions for concepts that may be hard to apply outside of a math concept.

If you are a visual learner, 3blue1brown has this video that will relate this to how sonar works.

If you learn better Sixty Symbols has a video here which will relate it to music, or more specifically to metal.

If you don’t want to invest time in watching those movies here are general rules that apply.

[li]The more you know about a position, the less you know about momentum.[/li][li]The more you know about momentum, the less you know about position.[/li][/ul]

TLDR version:

Because you are less certain of the sweeping second hand position you are less likely to notice the effects of chronostasis.