Perception of acoustically presented time series with varied intervals

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2014 Mar;147:105-10. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.09.015. Epub 2013 Nov 5.


Data from three experiments on serial perception of temporal intervals in the supra-second domain are reported. Sequences of short acoustic signals ("pips") separated by periods of silence were presented to the observers. Two types of time series, geometric or alternating, were used, where the modulus 1+δ of the inter-pip series and the base duration Tb (range from 1.1 to 6s) were varied as independent parameters. The observers had to judge whether the series were accelerating, decelerating, or uniform (3 paradigm), or to distinguish regular from irregular sequences (2 paradigm). "Intervals of subjective uniformity" (isus) were obtained by fitting Gaussian psychometric functions to individual subjects' responses. Progression towards longer base durations (Tb=4.4 or 6s) shifts the isus towards negative δs, i.e., accelerating series. This finding is compatible with the phenomenon of "subjective shortening" of past temporal intervals, which is naturally accounted for by the lossy integration model of internal time representation. The opposite effect observed for short durations (Tb=1.1 or 1.5s) remains unexplained by the lossy integration model, and presents a challenge for further research.

Keywords: Duration discrimination; Interval of subjective uniformity; Perspectival contraction of time; Subjective shortening; Time perception; Uniformity illusion.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Male
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult