There are many films that illustrate the malleability of our perception of time. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) was the first movie to introduce slow motion in a move that changed filmmaking. In the climactic ending,Bonnie and Clyde are shot down in a hailstorm of bullets, and the director put the scene in balletic slow motion. No one had ever done this before. Some critics jumped on the director, Arthur Penn, calling it gratuitous. But as a cinematic technique it caught on. Why? Because everyone understood it. Everyone intuited that when something important happens, you experience it in a different way. You are not seeing more data in time, but you are remembering it better. When you ask yourself what happened after a dramatic event, your brain reads back out detailed memories and believes the event occurred in something like slow motion.
About the Contributor
David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and Sum: Tales from the Afterlives. He is the writer and host of the Emmy-nominated PBS television series The Brain. Eagleman is an adjunct professor at Stanford University, a Guggenheim fellow, and the director of the Center for Science and Law.