Executive processes and timing: Comparing timing with and without reference memory

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2019 Mar;72(3):377-388. doi: 10.1177/1747021817751869. Epub 2018 Jan 22.


Temporal perception is influenced by executive function. However, performance on different temporal tasks is often associated with different executive functions. This study examined whether using reference memory during a task influenced how performance was associated with executive resources. Participants completed temporal generalisation and bisection tasks, in their normal versions involving reference memory and in episodic versions without reference memory. Each timing task had two difficulty levels: easy and hard. Correlations between performance on these tasks and measures of executive function (updating, inhibition, task switching, and access to semantic memory) were assessed. Accuracy on the temporal generalisation task was correlated with memory access for all versions of the task. Updating correlated with accuracy only for the reference memory-based version of the task. Temporal bisection performance presented a different pattern of correlations. The bisection point was negatively correlated with inhibition scores, except for the easy episodic condition. The Weber ratio, considered a measure of temporal sensitivity, was negatively correlated with memory access only in the hard episodic condition. Together, the findings suggest that previous models of generalisation and bisection may not accurately reflect the underlying cognitive processes involved in the tasks.

Keywords: Time perception; executive function; memory; timing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult