We report three experiments in which the events flanking a temporal interval were either related or unrelated, based on overlap in the letter identity of single letters (Experiment 1), in the conceptual congruency of color words and colored rectangles (Experiment 2), or in the conceptual congruency of sentence stems and their terminal words (Experiment 3). In all cases, we observed a bias for participants to judge the duration of temporal intervals as shorter when the flanking events were related. We draw an analogy between these temporal judgement distortions and those reported elsewhere (Alards-Tomalin et al. in J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 40(2):555–566, 2014) that revealed that the similarity in the relative magnitude of flanking events generate the same type of bias on duration judgements. The observation that non-magnitude dimensions of relatedness between flanking events can also bias duration judgements raise questions about the applicability of two influential theoretical frameworks for understanding the distorting effects that non-temporal stimulus dimensions can have on duration judgments, A Theory of Magnitude (Buetl and Walsh in Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 12:1831–1840, 2009, Walsh in Trends Cogn Sci 7:483–488, 2003) and the Conceptual Metaphor Theory (e.g., Lakoff and Johnson in Philosophy in the flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought. Basic Books, New York, 1999). In our general discussion, we consider a number of alternative frameworks that may account for these findings.
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Similarly, it is conceivable that encountering only low constraint sentence stems in the practice phase may have had a biasing effect on our participants. Perhaps participants experienced an expectancy violation when they encountered high constraint stems when they encountered then during the experimental trials? If so, might that explain why participants were biased to judge intervals following High Constraint stems as long? We are not convinced that participants carried strong expectations about the type of sentence stems that they encountered during the practice phase into the experimental session. Participants knew they were in a warm-up phase and we expect that they were primarily focused on trying to get a sense of the difference between long and short intervals. Nevertheless, we would again point out that a low probability of marker relatedness produced a bias to judge intervals as shorter in Experiments 1 and 2. Suggesting that an expectancy violation was the source of participants’ bias to judge intervals as long on High Constraint trials in Experiment 3 is not compatible with a holistic consideration of the results of our three experiments.
One of our reviewers pointed out that, although we equated the number of AX Repetition and XB Repetition trials in Experiments 1 and 2, the likelihood of encountering an AX letter repetition was a bit lower than the likelihood of encountering an XB letter repetition or a colored rectangle/color word sequence. Given any letter or color word as the A item in those experiments, the likelihood that the X item would match was .10 (40 AX Repetition trials/400 total trials) in Experiment 1 and .25 (48 AX Congruent experimental trials/192 total experimental trials) in Experiment 2. However, given the presentation of non-matching AX items, the likelihood that the B item would match the preceding X item was about .11 (40 XB Repetition trials/40 XB Repetition trials + 320 No Repetition trials) in Experiment 1 and about .33 (48 XB Congruent trials/48 XB Congruent trials + 96 No Repetition trials) in Experiment 2. As a result, although participants were less likely to encounter matching AX and XB items than non-matching items, matching XB items would have been somewhat more expected than matching AX items.
Across both experiments, our results establish that participants’ likelihood of making a long-short judgement was lower on AX related trials than on XB related trials. Despite the possible difference in whether participants expected a relatedness between AX items vs. between XB items in Experiments 1 and 2, encountering a match in either case biased participants to judge the interval separating them as shorter. Consequently, we were curious as to whether the potential difference in participants’ expectations that they would encounter matching AX vs. XB markers generated a difference between their likelihood of judging AX intervals as short-long and XB intervals as long-short. In Experiment 1, participants judged AX Repetition intervals as short-long on .530 of trials and XB Repetition intervals as long-short on .518 of trials. In Experiment 2, participants judged AX Congruent intervals as short-long on .561 of trials and XB Congruent intervals as long-short on .555 of trials. Although, in both experiments, participants’ likelihood of judging intervals marked by related items was nominally higher when AX items were related than when XB items were related, these differences were not statistically significant. Thus, we are unable to make any strong inferences based on these differences. If differences in the participants’ expectations for encountering a related AX vs. XB items contributed to our results, the effect was quite subtle.
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This research was supported by a Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada to LLM. We would like to thank our two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.
This research was supported by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada to Launa Leboe-McGowan.
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflict of interests to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.
The University of Manitoba Psychology and Sociology Research Ethics Board approved this project (HS22323 P2018:135 Conceptual Associations and Perceptions of the Passage of Time), and therefore, the study was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards identified in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Sentence stem and terminal word combinations in Experiment 3, based on the stimulus set developed by Whittlesea and Williams (2001).
|High constraint stems||Terminal words|
|1. The policeman identified himself with his||Badge||Line|
|2. The sailor marked their position on the||Map||Coat|
|3. When the music started he asked her to||Dance||Laugh|
|4. Deep in the forest the hunter shot a||Deer||Lamp|
|5. She tiptoed across the room without making a||Sound||Plan|
|6. The electricity went off during the violent||Storm||Bite|
|7. He escaped from the plane crash without a||Scratch||Lip|
|8. They swam and played at the||Beach||Bus|
|9. After the accident he was covered in||Blood||Whisky|
|10. The hikers got lost when they left the||Trail||Planet|
|11. He had a bad headache and a very sore||Throat||Canary|
|12. She carried all her money in her||Purse||Forest|
|13. The cat waited patiently to catch the||Mouse||Tree|
|14. The prisoner screamed insults at the||Guard||Bread|
|15. They sell wine by the bottle or the||Glass||Wound|
|16. They sat in the garden on an old oak||Bench||Road|
|17. They ate everything down to the last||Crumb||Slope|
|18. They went into the tavern to get a||Beer||Sash|
|19. The new admiral took command of the||Ship||Robe|
|20. He loves apple juice and drinks it by the||Litre||Branch|
|21. The children played in the yard at the||School||Railing|
|22. Nothing smells worse than a dead||Skunk||Ability|
|23. He panted heavily as he ran up the||Hill||Gathering|
|24. He rode his bike up and down the||Street||Pond|
|25. When the car hit a bump he bit his||Tongue||Cloth|
|26. The poet got stuck writing the second||Verse||Wheeze|
|27. The conductor took their tickets on the||Train||Boutique|
|28. The grey horse is the fastest on the||Track||Stake|
|29. The cat eagerly licked the last drop of||Milk||Plantation|
|30. The difficult problem strained his||Mind||Gravy|
|31. She cleaned the kitchen floor with a||Broom||Toast|
|32. He secured the gate with a lock and||Chain||Jacket|
|33. The wrestler had a very hairy||Chest||Pint|
|34. The police were worried about the rate of||Crime||Schooner|
|35. The little boy got lost in the||Crowd||Lantern|
|36. The reeling drunk fell into the||Ditch||Pouch|
|37. At the fashion show she bought a red||Dress||Lawn|
|38. The dog chased the yellow cat over the||Fence||List|
|39. The pond was alive with ducks and||Swans||Grime|
|40. To explain the equation the teacher drew a||Graph||Carafe|
|41. The gardener spent the day trimming the||Hedge||Felony|
|42. They moved from the apartment to a||Farm||Shackle|
|43. She wore a red sweater and a matching||Skirt||Sparrow|
|44. The tailor sewed buttons on the||Shirt||Grin|
|45. When she winked at the baby he gave a||Smile||Mop|
|46. He had a cold that made him sniffle and||Cough||Rush|
|47. She took a shirt to the cleaners to remove the||Stain||Pole|
|48. He planted the little tree and supported it with a||Post||Coach|
|49. She settled for a job as a cashier in a||Shop||Path|
|50. She tied the parcel together with||String||Paint|
|51. The logger cut down the tree and sat on the||Log||Cord|
|52. The coal miners were covered with dust and||Filth||Meadow|
|53. She sewed the wedding dress with silver||Thread||Feet|
|54. For breakfast he likes honey and jam on his||Toast||Hand|
|55. Her hips are tiny and so is her||Waist||Earth|
|56. That summer the farmer harvested tons of||Corn||Ranch|
|57. The explorer set out on a voyage around the||World||Stump|
|58. They sailed across the Pacific in a small||Yacht||Bakery|
|59. In the darkness of the cellar she lit a||Match|
|60. The farmer lost his crop to the||Frost||Pit|
|Low constraint stems||Congruent||Incongruent|
|1. They didn’t know what to do with the||Fence||Arm|
|2. Her husband thought it would be nice to have a||Tree||Church|
|3. What she admired most was his||Imagination||Flask|
|4. He spent a pleasant day watching the||Fish||Satchel|
|5. It’s easy to see the mark she made on the||Diagram||Sloop|
|6. The famous actress was best known for her||Giggle||Key|
|7. While cutting the lawn she ran the mower over a||Stick||Theft|
|8. After 4 years of study he was an expert on||Wheat||Legs|
|9. She couldn’t find a place to put the||Rag||Neck|
|10. The young singer worried about his||Face||Rodent|
|11. The old man couldn't find a buyer for his||Boat||Yogurt|
|12. She thought it was a good time to make fresh||Muffins||Dirt|
|13. White carpet is very elegant but you risk a||Stain||Cold|
|14. She thought it was a good idea to use a||Flashlight||Warden|
|15. They used all her money to buy a||House||Sonnet|
|16. She didn't have the money to buy a||Dress||Grain|
|17. He found a new way to use the old||Cable||Smudge|
|18. She had seen his name in a book about||Assault||Noise|
|19. There was a lot of noise in the||Crowd||Doe|
|20. It was his job to clean out the||Ditch||Geese|
|21. She asked the clerk to show her a nice||Blouse||Register|
|22. She held on tight to his woolen||Sleeve||Stool|
|23. While eating supper he suddenly had to||Sneeze||Waltz|
|24. She decided to invest her money in a big||Store||Candy|
|25. She had to quit working when she ran out of||Thread||Blood|
|26. She wrote him a letter telling him about the||World||Quart|
|27. He took precautions to protect his||Nose||Gale|
|28. She had saved up miles of red||Rope||Card|
|29. To finish the garden they had to remove the||Trunk||Lace|
|30. After waiting for so long he was covered with||Sweat||Carrier|
|31. Every elected official should carry a||Label||Rat|
|32. Later that day they went to the||Lake||Hurricane|
|33. She couldn't help liking the charming||Chair||Blotch|
|34. He went out to buy sausages and||Gravy||Hail|
|35. On the corner of the table there was a bit of||Glass||Seashore|
|36. The clerk spilled coffee all over the||Map||Fuss|
|37. You can't do very much with just a||Piece||Moose|
|38. She developed a severe headache at the||Party||Scarf|
|39. He ran by the spot without wanting a||Drink||Museum|
|40. He had always enjoyed watching the||Fleet||Yarn|
|41. In cases like this you don't expect||Hail||Tango|
|42. Next to the precious tureen was a||Jug||Frigate|
|43. He didn't really need to have another||Guard||Gradient|
|44. It was the first time she had ever seen a||Moose||Head|
|45. He went into the attic to try to see the||Mouse||Judge|
|46. In the accident she lost her new||Bag||Ear|
|47. She asked him to stop and pick up another||Gallon||Brain|
|48. The new building over there will be a||College||Shawl|
|49. He was always afraid he might meet a||Bear||Tag|
|50. She searched for him on the far side of the||Hill||Barley|
|51 She was afraid she was about to make a||Sound||Shaft|
|52. Her appointment was delayed because of the||Blizzard||Herons|
|53. He met the love of his life in the||Street||Rhyme|
|54. That kind of medicine is good for the||Throat||Seat|
|55. His research was all on the cells of the||Finger||Piece|
|56. He never thought about the state of the||Circuit||Groan|
|57. He helped the company build a new||Path||Drink|
|58. There are few things as relaxing as the||Rain||Bruise|
|59. Later that evening she told him the second||Verse||Wall|
|60. Many people go through life without a||Scratch||Graph|
About this article
Cite this article
Leboe-McGowan, L.C., Leboe-McGowan, J.P., Fortier, J. et al. Non-magnitude sources of bias on duration judgements for blank intervals: conceptual relatedness of interval markers reduces subjective interval duration. Psychological Research (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01482-w