Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Time Perception Is Enhanced by Task Duration Knowledge: Evidence from Experienced Swimmers

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Time Perception Is Enhanced by Task Duration Knowledge: Evidence from Experienced Swimmers

Article excerpt

Published online: 18 July 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract The present study deals with the impact on temporal estimation of previous knowledge about the duration of a specific task (referred to as "task duration knowledge"). Athletes were recruited in this study because they are assumed to have high levels of task duration knowledge in their discipline. In Experiment 1, 28 elite swimmers had to estimate the time it would take to swim a given distance using two different strokes for which they had different task duration knowledge levels. The swimmers estimated duration more accurately and with less uncertainty in the high-knowledge than in the low-knowledge condition. In Experiment 2, the swimmers had to produce 36 s of swimming in various contexts that altered the retrieval of their task duration knowledge, with and without a secondary task. When swimmers could not rely on their task duration knowledge, their productions were more affected by the secondary task. In Experiment 3, the swimmers were more precise at producing time when visualising something that they knew well (swimming) rather than something that they had never experienced, which shows that physical execution is not a mandatory requirement for observing the enhancement effect resulting from task duration knowledge. These three converging experiments suggest that task duration knowledge is strongly involved in time perception.

Keywords Time perception . Memory . Attention

The past few years have seen a growing number of researchers putting forward the need to gain a better understanding of the temporal properties of memory for time. As Taatgen and van Rijn (2011) recently summarised, almost every model of timing implies a memory component.However, this component has been understudied inthe last fewdecades, as compared to other components or properties of timing models (e.g., the role of attention in the pacemaker-counter device). Nevertheless, some studies have focused on various aspects of temporal memory for time, such as the lifespan of memory traces (Gamache & Grondin, 2010); the interference between different temporal traces (Grondin, 2005) or between other task demands andmemory traces(Ogden,Wearden,&Jones,2008); the development of temporal memory (Rattat & Droit-Volet, 2005a, b, 2007); the effect of the number of presentations of a standard duration on temporal discrimination (Jones & Wearden, 2003); the influence of pharmacological substances on temporal memory (Meck, 1983); or the electroencephalographic basis of memory traces (Ng, Tobin,& Penney, 2011).

However, most of the abovementioned studies were conducted within the framework of scalar expectancy theory (SET) and/or used temporal discrimination tasks. Indeed, most tasks executed within the SET framework simply require the comparison of two (or more) very brief durations, as is the case with temporal generalisation, in which a participant must report whether a probe duration corresponds to a learned anchor duration (Grondin, 2010). Such a methodological paradigm is primarily used in SET because it is suitable for both animal and human research (e.g., Penney, Gibbon, & Meck, 2008). However, the results of studies using temporal discrimination may not apply to other, more complex time judgements, such as the verbal estimation of time. Indeed, Wearden and Lejeune (2008) concluded that "classical timing tasks" (e.g., verbal estimation and production) usually violate the scalar property of timing. Furthermore, Matthews (2011) recently concluded that verbal estimates of time may not be suitable for study of the properties of the internal clock (as defined by SET). Thus, when looking outside the temporal discrimination paradigm, the involvement of long-term memory (LTM) in timing still appears unclear.

While discrimination tasks only require a comparison between durations, other classical tasks, such as verbal estimation, imply the quantification of duration (e. …

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