A mode control model of counting and timing processes

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 1983 Jul;9(3):320-34.


The similarity of animal counting and timing processes was demonstrated in four experiments that used a psychophysical choice procedure. In Experiment 1, rats initially learned a discrimination between a two-cycle auditory signal of 2-sec duration and an eight-cycle auditory signal of 8-sec duration. For the number discrimination test, the number of cycles was varied, and the signal duration was held constant at an intermediate value. For the duration discrimination test, the signal duration was varied, and the number of cycles was held constant at an intermediate value. Rats were equally sensitive to a 4:1 ratio of counts (with duration controlled) and a 4:1 ratio of times (with number controlled). The point of subjective equality for the psychophysical functions that related response classification to signal value was near the geometric mean of the extreme values for both number and duration discriminations. Experiment 2 demonstrated that 1.5 mg/kg of methamphetamine administered intraperitoneally shifted the psychophysical functions for both number and duration leftward by approximately 10%. Experiment 3 demonstrated that the magnitude of cross-modal transfer from auditory signals to cutaneous signals was similar for number and duration. In Experiment 4 the mapping of number onto duration demonstrated that a count was approximately equal to 200 msec. The psychophysical functions for number and duration were fit with a scalar expectancy model with the same parameter values for each attribute. The conclusion was that the same internal mechanism is used for counting and timing. This mechanism can be used in several modes: the "event" mode for counting or the "run" and the "stop" modes for timing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Concept Formation / drug effects
  • Discrimination Learning* / drug effects
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Muridae
  • Time Perception* / drug effects


  • Methamphetamine