Distortion of the Perception of Time

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The distortion of the perception of time is an internal reaction that occurs when people have experienced a dynamic critical incident. It is usually referred to as the slowing down of time by people recollecting their memories of a traffic accident, gunfight or other intense situation, sometimes but not always self-defense related. People often recall a huge amount of detail about events that happened in a fraction of a second.

However, some people say it all happened so fast that they remember nothing. “All of a sudden the gun was in my hand and before I knew it, I’d fired ten shots and barely remember pulling the trigger.”

Formation of Memory

Combine these two responses with the fact that eyewitness testimony when recalling a crime or other critical incident is notoriously unreliable. Research into these conflicting reactions shows that the formation of memory during a critical incident is very different from the formation of memory when we are in normal learning mode, such as when viewing these self-defense videos.

When our natural self-defense alarm goes off, for example when someone pulls a gun and attacks us, the processing of information by the brain immediately becomes much more important than the formation of memories. The body and brain need to work together efficiently to deal with the threat. Remembering every detail of what happened isn’t a priority — surviving is.

Dash-Cam Evidence

Over the last couple of decades, surveillance cameras and dash-cam videos have helped us understand what actually happens during a fight, and how inaccurate eyewitness testimony has been. This has shaped our understanding of self-defense concepts.

Understanding the distortion of the perception of time as the body’s natural self-defense reaction should have a significant impact on the way you train and how you deal with other people’s recollections of dynamic critical incidents.

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