Between 2010 and 2014, the European-funded esf-cost Action Time In MentaL ActivitY: Theoretical, behavioral, bioimaging, and clinical perspectives (timely) aimed at creating an international network of researchers working on timing and time perception, but it also started to address questions and issues that had not been attended to-date. One recurring issue was consistently pointed out to us particularly by junior researchers and students: the difficulty in acquiring theoretical understanding and practical advices about the various methods utilized to measure timing in behavior. The underlying problem was the typical spread of information in academia, where senior researchers passed their theoretical and practical knowledge to junior researchers in their lab or junior researchers were given a multitude of papers and sources so that they can figure out on their own how to conduct a given timing task. The theoretical knowledge was publicly available, but the practical knowledge was confined to a handful of labs where it was passed on from researcher to researcher. Only by being taught by someone in the lab (or by extensive trial-and-error) one could achieve the hands-on practical knowledge to correctly apply these research methods, handle the problems one normally encounters in their use, and avoid their potential pitfalls. A consequence of the limited spread of practical knowledge also led students that learned a given method to end up using that method for the majority of their research for the rest of their career without being able to integrate new techniques into their research.
In timely, we aimed to provide hands-on methodological training on a large array of timing research methods to a wide audience by organizing a training school on Timing and Time Perception: Procedures, Measures, & Applications that was held in Corfu, Greece, between the 4th and the 8th of February 2013. During this event, numerous of the principal experimental tasks and data analyses employed to measure some aspect of timing behavior were presented theoretically and practically, with both talk and hands-on sessions. In a series of presentations by leading experts in the field, junior researchers were taught how to conduct, for example, a motor synchronization task, what programming code and equipment to use for running an experiment that could answer a scientific question using this method, how to analyze and best display the data obtained, the common issues and problems associated with this method, etc. The result of such a successful training school was that a team of 40 junior researchers got familiarized with all the major methodologies of measuring timing behavior and how to analyze these measurements, a learning experience that took only four days instead of the many years it could have taken
Because of the success of the training school and the lack of literature that systematically covers methods and techniques on timing and time perception, we decided to compile a book composed of contributions where literature, theory, practical applications in the form of computer programs, and experimental protocols covered all aspects of learning. This book you are now holding in your hands and the computer code associated with it is available online at https://github.com/ArgiroVat/Timing-and-Time-Perception-Book.
The book is a collection of the most utilized and known methods on timing and time perception. Specifically, it covers methods and analysis on circadian timing, synchrony perception, reaction/response time, time estimation, and alternative methods for clinical and developmental research. Most of the chapters are accompanied by a description of the experimental protocols for a sample experiment, the programming code to perform the experiment, sample results, and code for the analysis of the data. This practical section of the book is open source and will be continuously updated, but it serves as a companion to the chapters in the book (thus, first refer to the book, which is also available in open access via Brill’s website).
The depth at which the different chapters composing the book treats the arguments varies from very introductory to more advanced so as to cover the needs of both the junior and senior researcher. We believe this is a representative source of the current methods on timing and time perception and we hope that this will be the first step in future efforts to document experimental methods and analysis both in a theoretical and in a practical manner. We would like to thank the timely network and esf-cost funding for supporting this endeavor and our authors, who contributed to this book and patiently waited for its completion and publication. We would also like to thank two specific individuals: Charlie Zapolski, who graciously provided us with the photograph of the book cover and allowed us to modify it freely, and Mary Kostaki, who worked on the design of the cover for this book providing us with a wonderful result.
Argiro Vatakis, Fuat Balcı, Massimiliano Di Luca and Ángel Correa