Voluntary action and causality in temporal binding

Exp Brain Res. 2009 Oct;199(1):95-9. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1969-0. Epub 2009 Aug 13.


Previous studies have documented temporal attraction in perceived times of actions and their effects. While some authors argue that voluntary action is a necessary condition for this phenomenon, others claim that the causal relationship between action and effect is the crucial ingredient. In the present study, we investigate voluntary action and causality as the necessary and sufficient conditions for temporal binding. We used a variation of the launching effect proposed by Michotte, in which participants controlled the launch stimulus in some blocks. Volunteers reported causality ratings and estimated the interval between the two events. Our results show dissociations between causality ratings and temporal estimation. While causality ratings are not affected by voluntary action, temporal bindings were only found in the presence of both voluntary action and high causality. Our results indicate that voluntary action and causality are both necessary for the emergence of temporal binding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Causality*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Perception / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Volition / physiology*