Global depth perception alters local timing sensitivity

PLoS One. 2020 Jan 23;15(1):e0228080. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228080. eCollection 2020.


Dynamic environments often contain features that change at slightly different times. Here we investigated how sensitivity to these slight timing differences depends on spatial relationships among stimuli. Stimuli comprised bilaterally presented plaid pairs that rotated, or radially expanded and contracted to simulate depth movement. Left and right hemifield stimuli initially moved in the same or opposite directions, then reversed directions at various asynchronies. College students judged whether the direction reversed first on the left or right-a temporal order judgment (TOJ). TOJ thresholds remained similar across conditions that required tracking only one depth plane, or bilaterally synchronized depth planes. However, when stimuli required simultaneously tracking multiple depth planes-counter-phased across hemifields-TOJ thresholds doubled or tripled. This effect depended on perceptual set. Increasing the certainty with which participants simultaneously tracked multiple depth planes reduced TOJ thresholds by 45 percent. Even complete certainty, though, failed to reduce multiple-depth-plane TOJ thresholds to levels obtained with single or bilaterally synchronized depth planes. Overall, the results demonstrate that global depth perception can alter local timing sensitivity. More broadly, the findings reflect a coarse-to-fine spatial influence on how we sense time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depth Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Motion
  • Perceptual Masking
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*

Grant support

A Denison University Anderson Summer Scholarship to AB supported this research. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.