Modality differences in timing and temporal memory throughout the lifespan

Brain Cogn. 2011 Nov;77(2):298-303. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2011.07.007. Epub 2011 Aug 16.


The perception of time is heavily influenced by attention and memory, both of which change over the lifespan. In the current study, children (8 yrs), young adults (18-25 yrs), and older adults (60-75 yrs) were tested on a duration bisection procedure using 3 and 6-s auditory and visual signals as anchor durations. During test, participants were exposed to a range of intermediate durations, and the task was to indicate whether test durations were closer to the "short" or "long" anchor. All groups reproduced the classic finding that "sounds are judged longer than lights". This effect was greater for older adults and children than for young adults, but for different reasons. Replicating previous results, older adults made similar auditory judgments as young adults, but underestimated the duration of visual test stimuli. Children showed the opposite pattern, with similar visual judgments as young adults but overestimation of auditory stimuli. Psychometric functions were analyzed using the Sample Known Exactly-Mixed Memory quantitative model of the Scalar Timing Theory of interval timing. Results indicate that children show an auditory-specific deficit in reference memory for the anchors, rather than a general bias to overestimate time and that aged adults show an exaggerated tendency to judge visual stimuli as "short" due to a reduction in the availability of controlled attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*