Sensitivity to TimeImplications for the Representation of Time

Jonathon D. Crystal

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition

Second edition

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392661
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Sensitivity to TimeImplications for the Representation of Time

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



This chapter reviews studies on the psychophysical function for time. It provides evidence that time perception across many ranges is nonlinear, which may provide a basis for the development of a unified theory of timing that encompasses the discrimination of temporal intervals across several orders of magnitude—from milliseconds to days. The integration of concepts and methodologies from short-interval and circadian research may facilitate the development of such a unified theory. The proposed system is capable of representing when specific events occurred in time, just as people describe when events took place using a calendar–date–time system. This type of timing system retains the time of occurrence of earlier events. Moreover, time of occurrence may be encoded not only with respect to a circadian oscillator, but also with respect to other oscillators. Other oscillators may exist in the long-interval range (e.g., 20 hours), in the short-interval range (e.g., 1 to 3 minutes), and perhaps above 24 hours.

Keywords: timing; time sensitivity; linear timing hypothesis; time perception

Article.  9399 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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