When causality shapes the experience of time: Evidence for temporal binding in young children

Dev Sci. 2019 May;22(3):e12769. doi: 10.1111/desc.12769. Epub 2018 Dec 19.


It is well established that the temporal proximity of two events is a fundamental cue to causality. Recent research with adults has shown that this relation is bidirectional: events that are believed to be causally related are perceived as occurring closer together in time-the so-called temporal binding effect. Here, we examined the developmental origins of temporal binding. Participants predicted when an event that was either caused by a button press, or preceded by a non-causal signal, would occur. We demonstrate for the first time that children as young as 4 years are susceptible to temporal binding. Binding occurred both when the button press was executed via intentional action, and when a machine caused it. These results suggest binding is a fundamental, early developing property of perception and grounded in causal knowledge. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQC_MqjxZQQ.

Keywords: causal binding; causality; intentional action; temporal binding; temporal contiguity; time perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Causality*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Time
  • Time Perception / physiology*