Visual-auditory differences in duration discrimination of intervals in the subsecond and second range

Rammsayer, T. H.; Borter, N.; Troche, S. J. (2015). Visual-auditory differences in duration discrimination of intervals in the subsecond and second range. Frontiers in psychology, 6, p. 1626. Frontiers Research Foundation 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01626

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A common finding in time psychophysics is that temporal acuity is much better for auditory than for visual stimuli. The present study aimed to examine modality-specific differences in duration discrimination within the conceptual framework of the Distinct Timing Hypothesis. This theoretical account proposes that durations in the lower milliseconds range are processed automatically while longer durations are processed by a cognitive mechanism. A sample of 46 participants performed two auditory and visual duration discrimination tasks with extremely brief (50-ms standard duration) and longer (1000-ms standard duration) intervals. Better discrimination performance for auditory compared to visual intervals could be established for extremely brief and longer intervals. However, when performance on duration discrimination of longer intervals in the 1-s range was controlled for modality-specific input from the sensory-automatic timing mechanism, the visual-auditory difference disappeared completely as indicated by virtually identical Weber fractions for both sensory modalities. These findings support the idea of a sensory-automatic mechanism underlying the observed visual-auditory differences in duration discrimination of extremely brief intervals in the millisecond range and longer intervals in the 1-s range. Our data are consistent with the notion of a gradual transition from a purely modality-specific, sensory-automatic to a more cognitive, amodal timing mechanism. Within this transition zone, both mechanisms appear to operate simultaneously but the influence of the sensory-automatic timing mechanism is expected to continuously decrease with increasing interval duration.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Personality Psychology, Differential Psychology and Diagnostics

UniBE Contributor:

Rammsayer, Thomas; Borter, Natalie and Troche, Stefan


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 370 Education




Frontiers Research Foundation




Karin Dubler

Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2016 10:28

Last Modified:

08 Mar 2019 07:47

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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