General Commentary ARTICLE
Timing and time perception: A selective review and commentary on recent reviews
- 1Department of Psychology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA
- 2École de psychologie, Université Laval, Québec City, QC, Canada
A commentary on
Perception and estimation of time
by Fraisse, P. (1984). Annu. Rev. Psychol. 35, 1–36. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ps.35.020184.000245
Properties of the internal clock: first- and second-order principles of subjective time
by Allman, M. J., Teki, S., Griffiths, T. D., and Meck, W. H. (2014). Annu. Rev. Psychol. 65, 743–771. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115117
A clear example of the progress in the field of timing and time perception could be obtained by contrasting two articles published 30 years apart in the influential Annual Review of Psychology (ARP): one by Fraisse (1984), and one by Allman et al. (2014). The fact that there was one author 30 years ago, and a group of authors now, is a tangible sign of the contemporary way of approaching scientific research. In his review, Fraisse emphasized the distinction between time perception and time estimation; in their review, Allman et al. focused on the internal clock and the cerebral bases of timing and time perception.
Fraisse's review was published when a very important event happened in the field of timing and time perception: a conference was held in New York, in 1983, where researchers from both human and animal time perception met to communicate with one another. The conference led to the publication of the classical book edited by the late John Gibbon and the late Lorraine Allan (Gibbon and Allan, 1984). This meeting probably catalyzed the research on timing and time perception, especially the one emphasizing the scalar expectancy theory and, more generally speaking, the internal clock perspective, a clock described as a pacemaker-counter device.
It is somewhat surprising that there was no mention in Fraisse (1984) of this promising (to say the least) pacemaker-counter perspective, which was already available in the human timing literature (Creelman, 1962; Treisman, 1963). Moreover, the modest portions of information in Fraisse dedicated to the cerebral bases of timing exemplify the gap between the contemporary research in the field and the state of the literature 30 years ago.
With its emphasis on neuroscience literature (e.g., brain areas, cortical circuits, pharmacological effects, and pathologies), Allman et al. wrote an important, well-structured, and interesting state-of-the-art review on the cerebral bases of the time perception mechanisms. It is a bit surprising though that the scalar property is taken for granted, given actually Fraisse's fundamental distinction between time perception and time estimation, a distinction that could find some echoes in the limitation of the stability of the Weber fraction for time (see Figure 3 in Gibbon et al., 1997; or, for instance, Grondin, 2001, 2010b, 2012, 2015). Moreover, assuming the linearity between psychological and physical time (psychophysical law) remains disputable (Eisler, 1976).
By emphasizing the internal clock perspective, it was not possible for Allman et al. (2014) to refer to other recent developments in the field. Amongst the portions of the literature the reader might want to consider, there is one on retrospective timing (Block and Zakay, 1997; Tobin et al., 2010). There is also some interesting research (e.g., Boltz, 1998; Brown, 2008) offering a purely cognitive explanation of psychological time and timing—without reference to an internal clock (see reviews by Block et al., 1999, 2010; Block, 2003). Even within the perspective of an internal clock, the attentional-gate model (see for example, Zakay and Block, 1995 and later articles), which in an extension of the scalar expectancy theory, is worth mentioning.
Indeed, with the large increase of research in the field of timing and time perception in the Twenty-first century, it is not surprising to see so many recent special issues of journals on this topic, or close variants of them. The explosion is such that researchers have written a large number of recent review articles (see Table 1). This was partly described in an annotated bibliography on “Time Perception” (Block and Hancock, 2013). Another tangible sign of the vitality of this research field is exemplified by a large COST grant funded by the E.U. (title: “Time In MEntaL activitY,” or “TIMELY”) and the resulting founding of the Brill's new scientific journal dedicated to the psychology of time, Timing and Time Perception, co-edited by Meck et al.
Table 1. Selected list (in reverse chronological order) of reviews since 2010 on the psychology of time.
In conclusion, being a researcher in the field of timing and time perception has never been as exciting as it is at present, given the growth of its popularity, which has been enhanced by the arrival of contributions from neuroscientists. This excitement could be extended if one considers psychological time in an even larger perspective, or larger scale from the memory for the past events (Friedman, 1993) to the capacity to predict the duration of future events (Roy et al., 2005).
Conflict of Interest Statement
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
We thank Keith Hutchison and an anonymous reviewer for their very helpful suggestions on drafts of this commentary.
Allman, M. J., Teki, S., Griffiths, T. D., and Meck, W. H. (2014). Properties of the internal clock: first- and second-order principles of subjective time. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 65, 743–771. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115117
Block, R. A., and Hancock, P. A. (2013). “Time perception,” in Annotated Bibliography (Oxford Online Bibliographies), 284–295. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com
Boltz, M. G. (1998). The processing of temporal and nontemporal information in the remembering of event durations and musical structure. J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 24, 1087–1104. doi: 10.1037/0096-15188.8.131.527
Gibbon, J., Malapani, C., Dale, C. L., and Gallistel, C. (1997). Toward a neurobiology of temporal cognition: advances and challenges. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 7, 170–184. doi: 10.1016/S0959-4388(97)80005-0
Grondin, S. (2012). Violation of the scalar property for time perception between 1 and 2 seconds: evidence from interval discrimination, reproduction, and categorization. J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 38, 880–890. doi: 10.1037/a0027188
Roy, M. M., Christenfeld, N. J. S., and McKenzie, C. R. M. (2005). Underestimation of future duration: memory incorrectly used or memory bias. Psychol. Bull. 131, 738–756. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.131.5.738
Tobin, S., Bisson, N., and Grondin, S. (2010). An ecological approach to prospective and retrospective timing of long durations: a study involving gamers. PLoS ONE 5:e9271. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009271
Tucci, V., Buhusi, C. V., Gallistel, R., and Meck, W. H. (2014). Timing in neurobiological processes: from genes to behaviour compiled. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B 369:20120470. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0470
Vatakis, A., Esposito, A., Giagkou, M., Cummins, F., and Papadelis, G. (2011). Multidisciplinary Aspects of Time and Time Perception. Vol. 6789. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Berlin: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-21478-3
Keywords: time perception, attention, animals, humans, commentary
Citation: Block RA and Grondin S (2014) Timing and time perception: A selective review and commentary on recent reviews. Front. Psychol. 5:648. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00648
Received: 02 May 2014; Accepted: 06 June 2014;
Published online: 29 July 2014.
Edited by:Claire Zedelius, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Reviewed by:Hedderik Van Rijn, University of Groningen, Netherlands
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