Temporal bisection is influenced by ensemble statistics of the stimulus set

Zhu, X., Baykan, C., Müller, H. J., & Shi, Z. (2020). Temporal bisection is influenced by ensemble statistics of the stimulus set. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-020-02202-z

Although humans are well capable of precise time measurement, their duration judgments are nevertheless susceptible totemporal context. Previous research on temporal bisection has shown that duration comparisons are influenced by both stimulusspacing and ensemble statistics. However, theories proposed to account for bisection performance lack a plausible justification ofhow the effects of stimulus spacing and ensemble statistics are actually combined in temporal judgments. To explain the variouscontextual effects in temporal bisection, we develop a unifiedensemble-distribution account(EDA), which assumes that themean and variance of the duration set serve as a reference, rather than the short and long standards, in duration comparison. Tovalidate this account, we conducted three experiments that varied the stimulus spacing (Experiment1), the frequency of theprobed durations (Experiment2), and the variability of the probed durations (Experiment3). The results revealed significantshifts of the bisection point in Experiments1and2, and a change of the sensitivity of temporal judgments in Experiment3—which were all well predicted by EDA. In fact, comparison of EDA to the extant prior accounts showed that using ensemblestatistics can parsimoniously explain various stimulus set-related factors (e.g., spacing, frequency, variance) that influencetemporal judgments.