Distractor Expectancy Effects on Interval Timing

in Timing & Time Perception
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


The influence of non-temporal distractor stimuli on interval timing under conditions expected to elicit covert shifts of attention was examined using seconds range stimuli and the duration bisection task. Distractor stimuli appeared in positions peripheral to the timing signal on half of the trials, but participants were instructed to maintain fixation on the timing stimulus while their eye positions were monitored using an eye-tracker. In Experiment 1, participants ignored the distractors, whereas in Experiment 2 participants counted the distractors. In both experiments, trials with distractors were judged as longer than equivalent duration trials without distractors. Presenting a cue that indicated whether or not the subsequent trial would include distractors (Experiment 3) eliminated this lengthening effect. Taken together, these results suggest that when the presence of distractor stimuli during a trial is uncertain, distractor expectation captures attention that would otherwise be allocated to timing, with the result that perceived duration is shorter on trials in which distractors are absent.



AllanL. G.GibbonJ. (1991). Human bisection at the geometric mean. Learn. Motiv., 22, 3958.

AllmanM. J.TekiS.GriffithsT. D.MeckW. H. (2014). Properties of the internal clock: First- and second-order principles of subjective time. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 65, in press.

BeckD. M.LavieN. (2005). Look here but ignore what you see: Effects of distractors at fixation. J. Exp. Psychol.-Human, 31, 592607.

BortolussiM.DixonP. (2003). Psychonarratology: foundations for the empirical study of literary response. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

BrownS. W. (1997). Attentional resources in timing: Interference effects in concurrent temporal and non-temporal working memory tasks. Percept. Psychophys., 59, 11181140.

BuhusiC. V.MeckW. H. (2005). What makes us tick? Functional and neural mechanisms of interval timing. Nat. Rev. Neurosci., 6, 755765.

BuhusiC. V.MeckW. H. (2006a). Interval timing with gaps and distracters: Evaluation of the ambiguity, switch, and time-sharing hypotheses. J. Exp. Psychol.-Anim. Behav. Proc., 32, 329338.

BuhusiC. V.MeckW. H. (2006b). Time sharing in rats: A peak-interval procedure with gaps and distracters. Behav. Process., 71, 107115.

BuhusiC. V.MeckW. H. (2009a). Relative time sharing: New findings and an extension of the resource allocation model of temporal processing. Phil. T. R. Soc. B, 364, 18751885.

BuhusiC. V.MeckW. H. (2009b). Relativity theory and time perception: Single or multiple clocks? PLoS One, 4, e6268.

CasiniL.MacarF. (1997). Effects of attention manipulation on judgments of duration and of intensity in the visual modality. Mem. Cogn., 25, 812818.

ChampagneJ.FortinC. (2008). Attention sharing during timing: modulation by processing demands of an expected stimulus. Percept. Psychophys., 70, 630639.

CoullJ. T.VidalF.NazarianB.MacarF. (2004). Functional anatomy of the attentional modulation of time estimation. Science, 303, 15061508.

Droit-VoletS.DelgadoM. de L.RattatA. C. (2005). The development of the ability to judge time in children. In MarrowJ. R. (Ed.), Focus on child psychology research (pp.  81104). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

FortinC. (2003). Attention time-sharing in interval timing. In MeckW. H. (Ed.), Functional and neural mechanisms of interval timing (pp.  17881796). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

FortinC.BedardM.ChampagneJ. (2005). Timing during interruptions in timing. J. Exp. Psychol.-Human, 31, 276288.

FortinC.CoutureE. (2002). Short-term memory and time estimation: Beyond the 2-second “critical” value. Can. J. Exp. Psychol., 56, 120127.

FortinC.FairhurstS.MalapaniC.MorinC.ToweyJ.MeckW. H. (2009). Expectancy in humans in multisecond peak-interval timing with gaps. Atten. Percept. Psycho., 71, 789802.

FortinC.MasséN. (2000). Expecting a break in time estimation: Attentional time-sharing without concurrent processing. J. Exp. Psychol.-Human, 26, 17881796.

FranssenV.VandierendonckA. (2002). Time estimation: Does the reference memory mediate the effect of knowledge of results? Acta Psychol., 109, 239267.

GallistellC. R. (2009). The importance of proving the null. Psychol. Rev., 116, 439453.

GaudreaultR.FortinC.MacarF. (2010). Contrasting effects of interference and of breaks in interval timing. Acta Psychol., 133, 316.

GautierT.Droit-VoletS. (2002). Attentional distraction and time perception in children. Int. J. Psychol., 37, 2734.

GibbonJ.ChurchR. M.MeckW. H. (1984). Scalar timing in memory. Ann. NY Acad. Sci., 423, 5277.

GloverS.DixonP. (2004). Likelihood ratios: A simple and flexible statistic for empirical psychologists. Psychon. B. Rev., 11, 791806.

KanaiR.PaffenC. L. E.HogendoornH.VerstratenF. A. J. (2006). Time dilation in dynamic visual display. J. Vision, 6, 14211430.

LakeJ. I.MeckW. H. (2013). Differential effects of amphetamine and haloperidol on temporal reproduction: Dopaminergic regulation of attention and clock speed. Neuropsychologia, 51, 284292.

LejeuneH. (1998). Switching or gating? The attentional challenge in cognitive models of psychological time. Behav. Process., 44, 127145.

LustigC.MeckW. H. (2005). Chronic treatment with haloperidol induces working memory deficits in feedback effects of interval timing. Brain Cogn., 58, 916.

LustigC.MeckW. H. (2011). Modality differences in timing and temporal memory throughout the lifespan. Brain Cogn., 77, 298303.

MacarF. (2002). Expectancy, controlled attention and automatic attention in prospective temporal judgments. Acta Psychol., 111, 243262.

MacarF.GrondinS.CasiniL. (1994). Controlled attention sharing influences time estimation. Mem. Cogn., 22, 673686.

MeckW. H. (1984). Attentional bias between modalities: Effect on the internal clock, memory, and decision stages used in animal time discrimination. Ann. NY Acad. Sci., 423, 528541.

OnoF.KitazawaS. (2010). Shortening of subjective tone intervals followed by repetitive tone stimuli. Atten. Percept. Psycho., 72, 492500.

OrtegaL.LopezF. (2008). Effects of visual flicker on subjective time in a temporal bisection task. Behav. Process., 78, 380386.

OrtegaL.LopezF.ChurchR. M. (2009). Modality and intermittency effects on time estimation. Behav. Process., 81, 270273.

PenneyT. B. (2003). Modality differences in interval timing: Attention, clock speed, and memory. In MeckW. H. (Ed.), Functional and neural mechanisms of interval timing (pp.  209234). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

PenneyT. B.AllanL. G.MeckW. H.GibbonJ. (1998). Memory mixing in duration bisection. In RosenbaumD. A.CollyerC. E. (Eds.), Timing of behavior: neural, computational, and psychological perspectives (pp.  165193). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

PenneyT. B.GibbonJ.MeckW. H. (2000). Differential effects of auditory and visual signals on clock speed and temporal memory. J. Exp. Psychol.-Human, 26, 17701787.

PenneyT. B.GibbonJ.MeckW. H. (2008). Categorical scaling of duration bisection in pigeons (Columba livia), mice (Mus musculus), and humans (Homo sapiens). Psychol. Sci., 19, 11031109.

PenneyT. B.HolderM. D.MeckW. H. (1996). Clonidine-induced antagonism of norepinephrine modulates the attentional processes involved in peak-interval timing. Exp. Clin. Psychopharm, 4, 8292.

PenneyT. B.MeckW. H.RobertsS. A.GibbonJ.Erlenmeyer-KimlingL. (2005). Attention mediated interval timing deficits in individuals at high risk for schizophrenia. Brain Cogn., 58, 109118.

Penton-VoakI. S.EdwardH.PercivalA.WeardenJ. H. (1996). Speeding up an internal clock in humans? Effect of click trains on subjective duration. J. Exp. Psychol.-Anim. Behav. Process., 22, 307320.

RattatA.-C.Droit-VoletS. (2012). What is the best and easiest method of preventing counting in different temporal tasks? Behav. Res. Methods, 44, 6780.

RousseauR.PicardD.PitreE. (1984). An adaptive counter model for time estimation. Ann. NY Acad. Sci., 423, 639642.

SawyerT. F.MeyersP. J.HuserS. J. (1994). Contrasting task demands alter the perceived duration of brief time intervals. Percept. Psychophys., 56, 649657.

TreismanM.FaulknerA.NaishP. L. N.BroganD. (1990). The internal clock: Evidence for a temporal oscillator underlying time perception with some estimates of its characteristic frequency. Perception, 19, 705748.

TremblayS.FortinC. (2003). Break expectancy in duration discrimination. J. Exp. Psychol.-Human, 20, 823831.

UlrichR.NitschkeJ.RammsayerT. (2006). Perceived duration of expected and unexpected stimuli. Psychol. Res., 70, 7787.

WeardenJ. H.EdwardsH.FakhriM.PercivalA. (1998). Why “sounds are judged longer than lights”: Application of a model of the internal clock in humans. Q. J. Exp. Psychol., 51B, 97120.

WeardenJ. H.LejeuneH. (2008). Scalar properties in human timing: Conformity and violations. Q. J. Exp. Psychol., 61, 569587.

WeardenJ. H.PhilpottK.WinT. (1999). Speeding up and (…relatively…) slowing down an internal clock in humans. Behav. Process., 46, 6373.

ZakayD. (2000). Gating or switching? Gating is a better model of prospective timing (a response to ‘switching or gating?’ by Lejeune. Behav. Process., 52, 6369.


  • A schematic illustration of the 115 possible computer screen locations (grey dots) for the distractor stimulus (cross) relative to the timing stimulus (black square).

    View in gallery
  • Group mean response functions, p(‘long’) plotted against probe duration, for the Distractor (filled squares) and No-Distractor (open squares) conditions of Experiment 1.

    View in gallery
  • Superimposition plot of the group response functions for the Distractor (closed symbols) and No-Distractor (open symbols) conditions of Experiment 1.

    View in gallery
  • Group mean response functions, p(‘long’) plotted against probe duration, for the Distractor (filled squares) and No-Distractor (open squares) conditions of Experiment 2.

    View in gallery
  • Superimposition plot of the group response functions for the Distractor (closed symbol) and No-Distractor (open symbol) conditions of Experiment 2.

    View in gallery
  • Group mean response functions, p(‘long’) plotted against probe duration, for the Distractor (filled squares) and No-Distractor (open squares) conditions of Experiment 3.

    View in gallery


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 23 23 6
Full Text Views 5 5 5
PDF Downloads 1 1 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0