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Yang, Taoxi; Li, Xiaoxuan; Li, Yao; Poeppel, Ernst; Bao, Yan (2020): Temporal twilight zone and beyond: Timing mechanisms in consciously delayed actions. In: Psych Journal, Vol. 9, No. 6: pp. 791-803
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Abstract

Precise timing is essential for many kinds of human behavior. When a fastest response is not required, movements are initiated at the appropriate time requiring an anticipatory temporal component. Temporal mechanisms for movements with such an anticipatory component are not yet sufficiently understood;in particular, it is not known whether on the operational level for delayed movements distinct time windows are used or whether anticipatory control is characterized by continuous temporal processing. With a modified reaction-time paradigm, we asked participants to act with predefined time delays between 400 and 5000 ms;after each individual trial, a numerical feedback was provided which allowed correction of the response time for each next trial. Visual stimuli (Experiment 1) and auditory stimuli (Experiment 2) were used. In the statistical analyses, piecewise linear models and exponential decay models for the response variability of different delay times were compared. These analyses favored piecewise linear models;a decreasing variability with increasing delay of voluntary controlled actions was observed up to similar to 1 s, followed by close to constant variability beyond this delay. We suggest that precise temporal control of voluntary delayed movements is reached only after a "temporal twilight zone" of similar to 1 s, which apparently marks a temporal border between two different timing mechanisms.