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Zhu, Xiuna; Baykan, Cemre; Müller, Hermann J.; Shi, Zhuanghua (2021): Temporal bisection is influenced by ensemble statistics of the stimulus set. In: Attention, perception & psychophysics, Vol. 83, No. 3: pp. 1201-1214
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Abstract

Although humans are well capable of precise time measurement, their duration judgments are nevertheless susceptible to temporal context. Previous research on temporal bisection has shown that duration comparisons are influenced by both stimulus spacing and ensemble statistics. However, theories proposed to account for bisection performance lack a plausible justification of how the effects of stimulus spacing and ensemble statistics are actually combined in temporal judgments. To explain the various contextual effects in temporal bisection, we develop a unified ensemble-distribution account (EDA), which assumes that the mean and variance of the duration set serve as a reference, rather than the short and long standards, in duration comparison. To validate this account, we conducted three experiments that varied the stimulus spacing (Experiment 1), the frequency of the probed durations (Experiment 2), and the variability of the probed durations (Experiment 3). The results revealed significant shifts of the bisection point in Experiments 1 and 2, and a change of the sensitivity of temporal judgments in Experiment 3-which were all well predicted by EDA. In fact, comparison of EDA to the extant prior accounts showed that using ensemble statistics can parsimoniously explain various stimulus set-related factors (e.g., spacing, frequency, variance) that influence temporal judgments.