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The Causal Asymmetry of Agency and Temporal Recalibration

August 10, 201311:23

The second one of three studies on the links between visuomotor timing, the sense of agency and time perception is out:

Asymmetries in visuomotor recalibration of time perception: Does causal binding distort the window of integration? Marieke Rohde, Leonie Greiner, Marc O. Ernst, Acta Psychologica, in press.

This is a follow-up study to our previous work on the recalibration of the point of perceived simultaenity to vision-lead and vision-lag visuomotor discrepancies – can you adjust your perception of presentness to a stimulus that always occurs even before you press a button? In the first study, we asked participants only to rate the temporal order of flash and button press events and found that, if trained to a discrepancy, the decision boundary changes, independent on the direction of the training discrepancy (vision first or movement first).

In the present study, participants also indicated the perceived length of the interval between a flash and a button press, with a surprising result: Depending on the training stimulus (vision lead or vision lag), the size of the temporal window of perceived simultaneity grows and shrinks on the side of the visual lag only. So even if we can adapt in both directions, the recalibration process that seemed symmetrical after our first study really is not symmetrical at all!

It appears that the temporal asymmetry of agency – the cause (=press) has to come before the effect (=flash) has strong influences on the way in which we adapt and reshape our experience of relative visuomotor timing. If you are interested in the result, plus some additional musings on what this has to do with intentional binding and how different temporal psychophysics tasks relate and should be modelled, check out the paper.