Eckart Zimmermann & Guido Marco Cicchini
Temporal Context affects interval timing at the perceptual level
Sci Rep 10, 8767 (2020)
There is now ample evidence that when observers are asked to estimate features of an object they take into account recent stimulation history and blend the current sensory evidence with the recent stimulus intensity according to their reliability. Most of this evidence has been obtained via estimation or production paradigms both of which entail a conspicuous post-perceptual decision stage. So it is an unsolved question, as to whether the trace of previous stimulation contributes at the decision stage or as early as the perceptual stage. To this aim we focused on duration judgments, which typically exhibit strong central tendency effects and asked a duration comparison between two intervals, one of which characterized by high uncertainty. We found that the perceived duration of this interval regressed toward the average duration, demonstrating a genuine perceptual bias. Regression did not transfer between the visual and the auditory modality, indicating it is modality specific, but generalized across passively observed and actively produced intervals. These findings suggest that temporal central tendency effects modulate how long an interval appears to us and that integration of current sensory evidence can occur as early as in the sensory systems.