Individual differences in first- and second-order temporal judgment

Andrew W Corcoran, Christopher Groot, Aurelio Bruno, Alan Johnston, Simon J Cropper

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The ability of subjects to identify and reproduce brief temporal intervals is influenced by many factors whether they be stimulus-based, task-based or subject-based. The current study examines the role individual differences play in subsecond and suprasecond timing judgments, using the schizoptypy personality scale as a test-case approach for quantifying a broad range of individual differences. In two experiments, 129 (Experiment 1) and 141 (Experiment 2) subjects completed the O-LIFE personality questionnaire prior to performing a modified temporal-bisection task. In the bisection task, subjects responded to two identical instantiations of a luminance grating presented in a 4deg window, 4deg above fixation for 1.5 s (Experiment 1) or 3 s (Experiment 2). Subjects initiated presentation with a button-press, and released the button when they considered the stimulus to be half-way through (750/1500 ms). Subjects were then asked to indicate their 'most accurate estimate' of the two intervals. In this way we measure both performance on the task (a first-order measure) and the subjects' knowledge of their performance (a second-order measure). In Experiment 1 the effect of grating-drift and feedback on performance was also examined. Experiment 2 focused on the static/no-feedback condition. For the group data, Experiment 1 showed a significant effect of presentation order in the baseline condition (no feedback), which disappeared when feedback was provided. Moving the stimulus had no effect on perceived duration. Experiment 2 showed no effect of stimulus presentation order. This elimination of the subsecond order-effect was at the expense of accuracy, as the mid-point of the suprasecond interval was generally underestimated. Response precision increased as a proportion of total duration, reducing the variance below that predicted by Weber's law. This result is consistent with a breakdown of the scalar properties of time perception in the early suprasecond range. All subjects showed good insight into their own performance, though that insight did not necessarily correlate with the veridical bisection point. In terms of personality, we found evidence of significant differences in performance along the Unusual Experiences subscale, of most theoretical interest here, in the subsecond condition only. There was also significant correlation with Impulsive Nonconformity and Cognitive Disorganisation in the sub- and suprasecond conditions, respectively. Overall, these data support a partial dissociation of timing mechanisms at very short and slightly longer intervals. Further, these results suggest that perception is not the only critical mitigator of confidence in temporal experience, since individuals can effectively compensate for differences in perception at the level of metacognition in early suprasecond time. Though there are individual differences in performance, these are perhaps less than expected from previous reports and indicate an effective timing mechanism dealing with brief durations independent of the influence of significant personality trait differences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0191422
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Corcoran et al.


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Judgment/physiology
  • Male
  • Personality/physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychophysics
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder/physiopathology
  • Time Perception/physiology
  • Young Adult

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