Non-magnitude sources of bias on duration judgements for blank intervals: conceptual relatedness of interval markers reduces subjective interval duration

Abstract

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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Availability of data/material

The data set will be provided upon request.

Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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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Acknowledgements

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.

Funding

This research was supported by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada to Launa Leboe-McGowan.

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Correspondence to Launa C. Leboe-McGowan.

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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.

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Appendix

Appendix

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
Congruent Incongruent
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 Print
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

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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

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