Temporal expectation and information processing: a model-based analysis

Cognition. 2012 Mar;122(3):426-41. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.11.014. Epub 2011 Dec 24.


People are able to use temporal cues to anticipate the timing of an event, enabling them to process that event more efficiently. We conducted two experiments, using the fixed-foreperiod paradigm (Experiment 1) and the temporal-cueing paradigm (Experiment 2), to assess which components of information processing are speeded when subjects use such temporal cues to predict the onset of a target stimulus. We analyzed the observed temporal expectation effects on task performance using sequential-sampling models of decision making: the Ratcliff diffusion model and the shifted-Wald model. The results from the two experiments were consistent: temporal expectation affected the duration of nondecision processes (target encoding and/or response preparation) but had little effect on the two main components of the decision process: response-threshold setting and the rate of evidence accumulation. Our findings provide novel evidence about the psychological processes underlying temporal-expectation effects on reaction time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Time Perception / physiology*