Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Traces of Times Past: Representations of Temporal Intervals in Memory

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Traces of Times Past: Representations of Temporal Intervals in Memory

Article excerpt

Abstract Theories of time perception typically assume that some sort of memory represents time intervals. This memory component is typically underdeveloped in theories of time perception. Following earlier work that suggested that representations of different time intervals contaminate each other (Grondin, 2005; Jazayeri & Shadlen, 2010; Jones & Wearden, 2004), an experiment was conducted in which subjects had to alternate in reproducing two intervals. In two conditions of the experiment, the duration of one of the intervals changed over the experiment, forcing subjects to adjust their representation of that interval, while keeping the other constant. The results show that the adjustment of one interval carried over to the other interval, indicating that subjects were not able to completely separate the two representations. We propose a temporal reference memory that is based on existing memory models (Anderson, 1990). Our model assumes that the representation of an interval is based on a pool of recent experiences. In a series of simulations, we show that our pool model fits the data, while two alternative models that have previously been proposed do not.

Keywords Time perception . Memory . Cognitive model . Temporal reference memory . Feedback

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Although there are many theories and models of how people estimate time intervals, they typically contain three components: a clock component, a memory component, and a comparison component (e.g., Church, 1984; Gibbon & Church, 1984; Michon, 1967; Treisman, 1963). A primary topic of debate related to these theories is the nature of the clock component. Some theories assume that the clock represents time linearly, such as the scalar expectancy theory (Gibbon, 1977, 1991), whereas others propose a nonlinear representation (e.g., Staddon & Higa, 1999; Taatgen, Van Rijn & Anderson 2007). Another controversy related to the clock is whether attention is necessary for the accurate performance of the clock: According to the attentional-gate models (for a description, see Zakay & Block, 1996), attention is necessary for the clock itself to function, while other models explain the effects of divided attention by other means (Lejeune, 1998; Taatgen et al., 2007). Apart from these studies that have focused on the separate components themselves, a large body of research has been devoted to unraveling the boundaries and relations between the different components. For example, although imaging studies (e.g., Lewis & Miall, 2006) and also clinical studies and pharmacological manipulations have shown that the clock and memory components have independent biological substrates (for a review, see Buhusi & Meck, 2005), many studies have shown that these systems are intimately tied together to produce accurate time estimations. In such studies, it is typically assumed that the memory system contains information that reflects earlier temporal experiences, which are then matched to the current state of the clock. This memory system is therefore often referred to as temporal reference memory. When the reference reflecting a previous experience matches the current state, the system knows that the same amount of time has passed.

The last years have seen an increased interest in the nature of the memory component. One line of research that can be identified is focused on the memory representations themselves. Two paradigms are used in this research: experiments in which a presented interval has to be compared to an explicitly or implicitly learned standard, and experiments in which subjects have to reproduce an earlier-presented duration.

Jones and colleagues used the first of these paradigms for various purposes: to test whether multiple presentations of an interval improve temporal reproduction (Jones & Wearden, 2003; Ogden & Jones, 2009), whether performance is degraded when multiple durations have to be learned and kept active simultaneously (Jones & Wearden, 2004), whether memory traces are modality independent (Ogden & Jones, 2009; Ogden, Wearden, & Jones, 2010), and whether the temporal structure of the task itself influences temporal judgments (Ogden, Wearden, & Jones, 2008). …

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