The influence of everyday events on prospective timing "in the moment"

Psychon Bull Rev. 2019 Apr;26(2):677-684. doi: 10.3758/s13423-018-1526-6.


We conducted two experiments to investigate how the eventfulness of everyday experiences influences people's prospective timing ability. Specifically, we investigated whether events contained within movies of everyday activities serve as markers of time, as predicted by Event Segmentation Theory, or whether events pull attention away from the primary timing task, as predicted by the Attentional Gate theory. In the two experiments reported here, we asked participants to reproduce a previously learned 30-s target duration while watching a movie that contained eventful and uneventful intervals. In Experiment 2, reproduction also occurred during "blank movies" while watching a fixation. In both experiments, participants made shorter and more variable reproductions while simultaneously watching eventful as compared to uneventful movie intervals. Moreover, in Experiment 2, the longest reproductions were produced when participants had to watch the blank movies, which contained no events. These results support Event Segmentation Theory and demonstrate that the elapsing events during prospective temporal reproduction appear to serve as markers of temporal duration rather than distracting from the timing task.

Keywords: Attention; Event cognition; Event segmentation theory; Time perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult