Interference between auditory and visual duration judgements suggests a common code for time

Psychol Res. 2013 Nov;77(6):708-15. doi: 10.1007/s00426-012-0464-6. Epub 2012 Nov 22.


Auditory stimuli usually have longer subjective durations than visual ones for the same real duration, although performance on many timing tasks is similar in form with different modalities. One suggestion is that auditory and visual stimuli are initially timed by different mechanisms, but later converted into some common duration code which is amodal. The present study investigated this using a temporal generalization interference paradigm. In test blocks, people decided whether comparison durations were or were not a 400-ms standard on average. Test blocks alternated with interference blocks where durations were systematically shorter or longer than in test blocks, and interference was found, in the direction of the durations in the interference blocks, even when the interfering blocks used stimuli in a different modality from the test block. This provides what may be the first direct experimental evidence for a "common code" for durations initially presented in different modalities at some level of the human timing system.

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Generalization, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*