Perceived duration of brief visual events is mediated by timing mechanisms at the global stages of visual processing

Lee Beattie, William Curran, Christopher Benton, Julie Harris, Paul Hibbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
337 Downloads (Pure)


There is a growing body of evidence pointing to the existence of modality-specific timing mechanisms for encoding sub-second durations. For example, the duration compression effect describes how prior adaptation to a dynamic visual stimulus results in participants underestimating the duration of a sub-second test stimulus when it is presented at the adapted location. There is substantial evidence for the existence of both cortical and pre-cortical visual timing mechanisms; however, little is known about where in the processing hierarchy the cortical mechanisms are likely to be located. We carried out a series of experiments to determine whether or not timing mechanisms are to be found at the global processing level. We had participants adapt to random dot patterns that varied in their motion coherence, thus allowing us to probe the visual system at the level of motion integration. Our first experiment revealed a positive linear relationship between the motion coherence level of the adaptor stimulus and duration compression magnitude. However, increasing the motion coherence level in a stimulus also results in an increase in global speed. To test whether duration compression effects were driven by global speed or global motion, we repeated the experiment, but kept global speed fixed while varying motion coherence levels. The duration compression persisted, but the linear relationship with motion coherence was absent, suggesting that the effect was driven by adapting global speed mechanisms. Our results support previous claims that visual timing mechanisms persist at the level of global processing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number160928
Number of pages8
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


  • Adaptation
  • Motion processing
  • Time perception

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