What is the best and easiest method of preventing counting in different temporal tasks?

Behav Res Methods. 2012 Mar;44(1):67-80. doi: 10.3758/s13428-011-0135-3.


The aim of the present study was to determine the best and easiest method of suppressing spontaneous counting in a temporal judgment task. Three classic methods used to avoid counting--instructions not to count, articulatory suppression, and administration of an interference task--were tested in temporal generalization, bisection, and reproduction tasks with two duration ranges (1-4 and 2-8 s). All the three no-counting conditions prevented participants from counting, counting leading to estimates that were more accurate and less variable and to violations of the fundamental scalar property of timing. With regard to the differences between the no-counting conditions, the interference task distorted time perception more strongly and increased variability in temporal estimates to a greater extent than did articulatory suppression, as well as the no-counting instructions condition. In addition, articulatory suppression produced more noise in behavioral outcome than did the no-counting instruction condition. In sum, although all methods have disadvantages, the instructions not to count actually constitute the simplest and more efficient method of preventing counting in timing tasks. However, further studies must now concentrate on the role of explicit instructions in our experience of perception.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavioral Research / methods*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception*