Temporal bisection in 4-month-old infants

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 2011 Jan;37(1):108-13. doi: 10.1037/a0019976.


The present study was the first to investigate infants' ability to discriminate time using a bisection task that has been extensively used with animals and human adults. Infants aged 4 months were presented with two standard auditory signals, one short (S = 500 ms) and one long (L = 1,500 ms), and were trained either to look to the left after S and to the right after L, or vice versa. During the test phase, the infants were then presented with intermediate durations without reinforcement as well as the two reinforced standard durations, for which the reinforcement was either immediate or delayed of 3 s. The times spent by the infants looking to the right, left or away from the target after the stimulus duration were coded by two blind coders. The results revealed an orderly psychophysical function with the proportion of long responses increasing with signal duration. The point of subjective equality (Bisection Point) was closer to the geometric mean of the short and long standard duration than to their arithmetic mean. Modeling using the scalar timing models revealed that our infants had a relatively high sensitivity to time but that their temporal performance was affected by the fact that they made a large number of random responses. The development of the perception of time is discussed in the light of similarities and differences in temporal bisection performance between different species (rats and humans) and the different levels of development observed within a given species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychophysics
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Signal Detection, Psychological / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception*