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About us Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences Organization News PhD Defences BSS

Time & other dimensions

PhD ceremony:Ms N. (Nadine) Schlichting
When:October 31, 2019
Supervisors:prof. dr. D.H. (Hedderik) van Rijn, prof. dr. R. (Ritske) de Jong
Where:Academy building RUG
Time & other dimensions

Time is complicated. One hurdle in studying the subjective experience of time is that we don’t have a sense for duration and time as we have for light (the visual system) and sound (the auditory system). However, everything we do, perceive, or cognize about is always extended in time – the way human minds work is inherently temporal. Time never occurs alone, but is embedded in context, change, and other dimensions. The studies reported in this thesis explore time in relation to other dimensions: numerosity (i.e., the total number of things given at a specific point in time), space, and human-like movement.We found that participants use different sources of information to make temporal decisions – there are different types of “timers” or strategies to extract duration information. We showed that time can be translated into different representations with only little costs in accuracy and precision. No matter how complex the to-be-timed event, observed timing performance adheres to general time perception laws. Overall, in line with the interval perception literature, we observed great flexibility in timing behavior regarding task and stimulus design. It therefore seems unlikely that there is one underlying mechanism or neural substrate (i.e., an “internal clock”) orchestrating all of this observed behavior. In the final chapter of the thesis, I discuss how there is actually no need for such an internal clock, because time is integral in all other dimensions, in the way we cognize about and interact with our environment.