Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Duration Judgments of Naturalistic Events in the Auditory and Visual Modalities

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Duration Judgments of Naturalistic Events in the Auditory and Visual Modalities

Article excerpt

Two experiments were performed to examine whether the same underlying mechanisms apply to the duration estimates of both auditory and visual events. In Experiment 1, it was found that the durations of visual scenes are reproduced with the same level of accuracy in prospective and retrospective situations when these display a predictable array of information, a result consistent with past research on auditory durations. Experiment 2 further revealed that when participants are asked to prospectively or retrospectively judge the durations of various naturalistic events in their auditory, visual, or audiovisual modality, no differences in either accuracy or bias are observed. These findings diverge from previous research and are argued to stem from different processing mechanisms that arise from naturalistic events.

Duration judgments are implicit in many everyday activities and are useful for ensuring that time is used efficiently for scheduling purposes. Many of the events we routinely encounter are multimodal in nature and offer information in both the visual and the auditory modalities. For example, suppose that a witness to a violent argument is later asked to estimate its duration. Depending on the witness's distance and location, he or she may have focused primarily on the visual gestures and actions or on the exchange of words and voices. The question addressed here is whether attending to one modality or the other results in more accurate estimates of both experienced and remembered duration. In addition, does time estimation ability depend on the inherent structure of the events to be judged?

Temporal Processing in the Auditory Versus Visual Modalities

These questions relate to more fundamental issues concerning how different perceptual systems compare in their processing abilities. One common technique is to present participants with conflicting information from different modalities to determine whether one captures the other. A typical finding in such experiments is that of visual dominance (Posner, Nissen, & Klein, 1976). In ventriloquism, for example, speech produced with no visible facial movements from a human performer appears to emanate from the moving lips of a puppet (Bertelson, 1999). Several individuals (e.g., Kubovy, 1988; Welch, 1999; Welch & Warren, 1980) have noted that the particular modality that dominates is that which is more precise and appropriate for the source of conflict. For example, the visual modality dominates in the case of ventriloquism, because is it more trustworthy for spatial location. Conversely, audition has been found to dominate when there are temporal discrepancies between modalities. This is illustrated by the phenomenon of auditory driving, in which a sequence of repetitive visual stimuli, unfolding at a constant tempo, is perceived to increase in rate when accompanied by an accelerating sequence of auditory clicks. No such misperceptions arise, however, when participants are asked to judge the rate of auditory clicks in the presence of visual sequences that vary in their tempo (Gebhard & Mowbray, 1959; Shipley, 1964).

Similar conclusions have been offered by others who have assessed performance on tasks in which the modality of stimulus presentation has been varied. Although some have disputed this claim (e.g., Handel, 1988), many have argued that the visual modality is better at processing spatial information, whereas the auditory modality is more sensitive to temporal information-a view that Glenberg and Swanson (1986) have termed the temporal distinctiveness theory. In support, Metcalfe, Glavanov, and Murdock (1981) reported that auditory stimuli are better recalled by temporal order but that visual stimuli are better recalled by spatial location, hi the processing of pattern information, auditory rhythms are learned at a faster rate (Handel & Buffardi, 1968) and are better remembered (Glenberg & Jona, 1991; Glenberg, Mann, Altman, Forman, & Precise, 1989) than visual rhythms. …

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