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Human Duration Perception Mechanisms in the Subsecond Range: Psychophysics and Electroencephalography Investigations


Lin, Yong-Jun (2018) Human Duration Perception Mechanisms in the Subsecond Range: Psychophysics and Electroencephalography Investigations. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/KGG5-9375.


In a world full of fleeting events, how do humans perceive time intervals as short as half a second? Unlike primary senses, there are no time receptors. Is sub-second time perception reconstructed from memory traces in the primary senses, or based on the output of a modality-independent internal clock? In analogy to bugs in computer programs or mutations in genetics studies, I studied two types of subjective time warp illusions in order to understand how time perception normally works. One illusion that I examined is called oddball chronostasis, which is a duration distortion effect that happens to an unusual item. The other illusion is called debut chronostasis, which is a time warp effect that occurs to the first item among other identical ones.

Regarding oddball chronostasis, we solved a theoretical dispute over its underlying mechanisms and dissociated three causes. The necessary component is top-down attention to the target item. The other two components are contingent factors. This suggests that a pure sensory modality-dependent view of time perception mechanisms is less likely. Regarding debut chronostasis, we discovered auditory debut chronostasis and found that its illusion strength is about the same as the visual case. At first glance, this seems to suggest that time perception is independent of the primary sensory modalities. However, when visual and auditory events were compared against each other (inter-modal comparison), debut chronostasis disappeared. Therefore, modality-dependent mechanisms of time perception do exist. Further, we found a special factor that could counteract debut chronostasis and thus re-interpreted the main cause of debut chronostasis as internal duration template uncertainty. By examining both intra- and inter-modal comparisons, this uncertainty effect turned out to be a modality-independent effect. Therefore, modality-independent mechanisms of time perception also exist.

In conclusion, this dissertation work contributed to novel theoretical understanding of two types of time perception illusions. Unlike many simplified theories in the literature either holding a modality-dependent or independent view, our findings altogether indicate that time perception involves both intra- and supra-modal stages. Future experimental work could thus target on separating intra- and supra-modal time perception mechanisms.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Psychophysics; Electroencephalography; EEG; Time Perception; Visual Perception; Auditory Perception; Illusion; Chronostasis; Within-modal; Cross-modal; Intra-modal; Inter-modal; Supra-modal; Attention
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Biology and Biological Engineering
Major Option:Computation and Neural Systems
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Shimojo, Shinsuke
Thesis Committee:
  • Meister, Markus (chair)
  • O'Doherty, John P.
  • Yun, Kyongsik
  • Shimojo, Shinsuke
Defense Date:6 November 2017
Non-Caltech Author Email:mentist (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Japan Science and Technology AgencyCREST
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06012018-150815346
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 2
Lin, Yong-Jun0000-0003-1239-5217
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11005
Deposited By: Yong Jun Lin
Deposited On:04 Jun 2018 21:13
Last Modified:18 Dec 2020 02:35

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