The differential contribution of executive functions to temporal generalisation, reproduction and verbal estimation

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2014 Oct;152:84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2014.07.014. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


Evidence from dual-task studies suggests that executive resources are recruited during timing. However, there has been little exploration of whether executive recruitment is universal across temporal tasks, or whether different temporal tasks recruit different executive resources. The current study explored this further by examining how individual differences in updating, switching, inhibition and access affected performance on temporal generalisation, reproduction and verbal estimation tasks. It was found that temporal tasks differentially loaded onto different executive resources. Temporal generalisation performance was related to updating and access ability. Reproduction performance was related to updating, access and switching. Verbal estimation performance was only related to access. The results suggest that executive resources may be recruited when monitoring and maintaining multiple durations in memory at the same time, and when retrieving duration representations from long-term memory. The findings emphasise the need to consider timing behaviour as the product of a wide range of complex, integrated, cognitive systems, rather than as the output of a clock in isolation.

Keywords: Attention; Executive function; Timing; Working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult