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The perceived duration of expected events depends on how the expectation is formed

Saurels, B. W., Arnold, D. H., Anderson, N. L. , Lipp, O. V. & Yarrow, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-0666-2163 (2022). The perceived duration of expected events depends on how the expectation is formed. Attention, Perception and Psychophysics,


Repeated events can seem shortened. It has been suggested that this results from an inverse relationship between predictability and perceived duration, with more predictable events seeming shorter. Some evidence disputes this generalisation, as there are cases where this relationship has been nullified, or even reversed. This study sought to combine different factors that encourage expectation into a single paradigm, to directly compare their effects. We find that when people are asked to declare a prediction (i.e., to predict which colour sequence will ensue), guess-confirming events can seem relatively protracted. This augmented a positive time order error, with the first of two sequential presentations already seeming protracted. We did not observe a contraction of perceived duration for more probable, or for repeated events. Overall, our results are inconsistent with a simple mapping between predictability and perceived duration. Whether the perceived duration of an expected event will seem relatively contracted or expanded seems to be contingent on the causal origin of expectation.

Significance statement:
The authors combine several factors that can modulate perceived duration in a single paradigm. They demonstrate that when you declare a prediction about the future, events that conform to your expectations seem relatively protracted. This overrode the expected impact of repetition (which often encourages a contraction of perceived duration). The effect of guessing – declared predictions – augmented a positive time order error (with the first of two sequential events also seeming protracted). Overall, this work highlights a multifaceted relationship between prediction and perceived duration, whereby anticipated events can seem longer or shorter.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is to be available online at:
Publisher Keywords: Prediction, Expectation, Oddball
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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