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Reading: Decisions and Memories in Human Timing


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Research Article

Decisions and Memories in Human Timing


John H. Wearden

Oxford Road Manchester M13 9PL, GB
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Some recent work has applied the clock-comparison model of scalar timing theory, originally used as an account of timed behaviour in animals, to human timing. As well as an internal clock, the scalar timing system also involves memory processes (e.g., storage of representations of critical durations) and decision processes. The paper discusses examples of decision processes that might be involved in temporal generalization and bisection, and presents a newer task where subjects have to decide whether one stimulus duration is half the length of another. This latter case produces data which appear to pose some problems for a simple treatment by scalar theory. Some recent studies of memory for duration in humans are reviewed. An experiment on memory for short “lists” (2 or 3 items) of tone durations is described, which found that memory for duration fell to chance when 3 tones had to be remembered. This limit is consistent with the idea that humans use a phonologically-specific articulatory mechanism to encode and retain tone durations, an assertion supported by other evidence. The value of considering human timing behavior as the result of an interaction of clock, memory, and decision processes, rather than just as a problem of the relation between subjective and real time, was emphasized.

How to Cite: Wearden, J.H., 1993. Decisions and Memories in Human Timing. Psychologica Belgica, 33(2), pp.241–253. DOI:
Published on 01 Jan 1993.
Peer Reviewed


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