Modulating the interference effect in timing with varying stimulus onset asynchrony

Can J Exp Psychol. 2011 Sep;65(3):151-62. doi: 10.1037/a0022561.


The interference effect on time judgments, when subjects are also required to perform a concurrent nontemporal task, is one of the most reliable findings in the time perception literature. In the present study, the interference between a time discrimination task (short or long tone) and a digit classification task (even or odd digit) was analysed using the overlapping tasks paradigm. Reaction times in the digit task were shorter at longer values of stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) in Experiment 1, showing a clear modulation of interference with varying the relative position of the tasks. Using longer tone durations in Experiment 2, reaction times in the digit task were affected not only by the overlap between the tasks but also by the temporal proximity of responses in the timing and digit tasks. In Experiment 3, the effect of varying the SOA on performance on the digit task was abolished when the auditory tone was irrelevant, thus eliminating an interpretation in terms of distraction from the tone offset. We conclude that the interference effect in concurrent time discrimination and digit classification may be modulated by the degree of overlap between the tasks as well as by the overlap between late processing stages related to decision and response components in the 2 tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychological Tests
  • Quebec
  • Reaction Time
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult