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Trevor B. Penney and Xiaoqin Cheng

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Trevor B. Penney, Xiaoqin Cheng, Yan Ling Leow, Audrey Wei Ying Bay, Esther Wu, Sophie K. Herbst and Shih Cheng Yen

A transient suppression of visual perception during saccades ensures perceptual stability. In two experiments, we examined whether saccades affect time perception of visual and auditory stimuli in the seconds range. Specifically, participants completed a duration reproduction task in which they memorized the duration of a 6 s timing signal during the training phase and later reproduced that duration during the test phase. Four experimental conditions differed in saccade requirements and the presence or absence of a secondary discrimination task during the test phase. For both visual and auditory timing signals, participants reproduced longer durations when the secondary discrimination task required saccades to be made (i.e., overt attention shift) during reproduction as compared to when the discrimination task merely required fixation at screen center. Moreover, greater total saccade duration in a trial resulted in greater time distortion. However, in the visual modality, requiring participants to covertly shift attention (i.e., no saccade) to complete the discrimination task increased reproduced duration as much as making a saccade, whereas in the auditory modality making a saccade increased reproduced duration more than making a covert attention shift. In addition, we examined microsaccades in the conditions that did not require full saccades for both the visual and auditory experiments. Greater total microsaccade duration in a trial resulted in greater time distortion in both modalities. Taken together, the experiments suggest that saccades and microsaccades affect seconds range visual and auditory interval timing via attention and saccadic suppression mechanisms.