The internal clock: evidence for a temporal oscillator underlying time perception with some estimates of its characteristic frequency

Perception. 1990;19(6):705-43. doi: 10.1068/p190705.


Evidence for the proposition that human time perception is determined by an internal clock is largely indirect. It would strengthen the case for this hypothesis if a model for the internal clock were available from which predictions could be derived and tested, and if the basic parameter of such a model, the frequency at which the clock runs, could be estimated. A model for an internal temporal pacemaker is briefly described and its properties are explored by computer simulation. Results are obtained that provide a basis for predicting that, under appropriate conditions, interference between an imposed rhythm and the frequency of a temporal oscillator may cause perturbations in temporal judgment which are related to the characteristic frequency of that oscillator. Experimental data are reported which appear to demonstrate such an interference pattern. These results allow some estimates of the characteristic frequency of the temporal oscillator to be obtained.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal*
  • Attention*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychophysics
  • Time Perception*