Understanding the past, predicting the future: causation, not intentional action, is the root of temporal binding

Psychol Sci. 2012 Dec;23(12):1490-7. doi: 10.1177/0956797612444612. Epub 2012 Oct 25.


Temporal binding refers to a subjective shortening of elapsed time between actions and their resultant consequences. Originally, it was thought that temporal binding is specific to motor learning and arises as a consequence of either sensory adaptation or the associative principles of the forward model of motor command. Both of these interpretations assume that the binding effect is rooted in the motor system and, critically, that it is driven by intentional action planning. The research reported here demonstrates that both intentional actions and mechanical causes result in temporal binding, which suggests that intentional action is not necessary for temporal binding and that binding results from the causal relation linking actions with their consequences. Intentional binding is thus a special case of more general causal binding, which can be explained by a theory of Bayesian ambiguity reduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Causality
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Time Perception / physiology*