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The ability to form time-based event expectancies is one of the most important determinants of anticipative behavior. The aim of the present study was to determine whether healthy aging influences the formation of time-based event expectancies. Ten older adults with ages ranging between 60 and 73 years and ten younger adults with ages ranging between 20 and 32 years participated. We employed a binary choice response task mimicking a computer game, in which two target stimuli and two pre-target intervals appeared overall equally often. One of the targets was paired with the short interval and the other target with the long interval in 80% of the trials. Our results showed that younger adults responded more rapidly to frequent interval–target combinations than to infrequent combinations, suggesting that the young participants formed time-based event expectancies. In contrast, the ability to form time-based event expectancies was reduced for older participants. The formation of time-based event expectancies seems to change during healthy aging. We propose that this age-related difference is due to age-related expectation deficits or a reduction of attentional capacities, rather than to deficits in timing abilities.

In: Timing & Time Perception