Distractor Expectancy Effects on Interval Timing

in Timing & Time Perception
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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.

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Figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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