The Perception of Time

Michel Treisman

in The Arguments of Time

Published by British Academy

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780197263464
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734748 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Centenary Monographs

The Perception of Time

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This chapter aims to present a psychological model of how people perceive time, and to explain some experimental evidence supporting it. It suggests that the apparently close correspondence between the spatiotemporal structures of the perceived world and of the physical world, in contrast to the complex and controversial relation between, for example, perceived colour and light, lies at the root of the primary quality/secondary quality distinction. It also examines the neural mechanisms by which people keep track of time. The answer to this question is a model in which the nervous system itself produces temporal information, in the form of a ‘pacemaker’ or pacemakers that emit pulses at regular characteristic intervals; the model also includes a ‘calibration unit’ to allow for flexibility in the accuracy of timing. The chapter ends by surveying the experimental evidence for this model, including EEG studies.

Keywords: time perception; temporal information; pacemaker; nervous system; timing accuracy; EEG studies

Chapter.  9498 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy

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