Does temporal preparation increase the rate of sensory information accumulation?

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2011 May;137(1):56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.02.006. Epub 2011 Mar 25.


Recent studies showed that temporal preparation, i.e., the ability to prepare for an upcoming stimulus, improves perceptual processing. The mechanisms underlying this benefit are still controversial. Based upon the theoretical framework of accumulation models, it has been proposed that the accumulation of sensory stimulus information begins earlier when participants are temporally prepared than when they are unprepared. Alternatively, however, temporal preparation might also affect the accumulation rate of sensory information. In the present study, we examined these possibilities. Specifically, in three experiments, we manipulated participants' decision criterion. This manipulation should interact with any experimental manipulation affecting the rate of information processing, but produce additive effects with any manipulation affecting the onset of information accumulation rather than its rate. We obtained additive effects on RT, irrespective of whether the decision criterion was manipulated by increasing catch trial proportion or nogo trial proportion. These results suggest that temporal preparation improves perceptual processing by operating on the onset of sensory information accumulation rather than the rate of sensory information accumulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cues
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult