Simultaneity and temporal order perception: different sides of the same coin? Evidence from a visual prior entry study

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Attended stimuli are perceived as occurring earlier than unattended stimuli. This phenomenon of prior entry is usually identified by a shift in the point of subjective simultaneity (PSS) in temporal order judgements (TOJs). According to its traditional psychophysical interpretation, the PSS coincides with the perception of simultaneity. This assumption is, however, questionable. Technically, the PSS represents the temporal interval between two stimuli at which the two alternative TOJs are equally likely. Thus it also seems possible that observers perceive not simultaneity, but uncertainty of temporal order. This possibility is supported by prior-entry studies, which find that perception of simultaneity is not very likely at the PSS. The present study tested the percept at the PSS in prior entry, using peripheral cues to orient attention. We found that manipulating attention caused varying temporal perceptions around the PSS. On some occasions observers perceived the two stimuli as simultaneous, but on others they were simply uncertain about the order in which they had been presented. This finding contradicts the implicit assumption of most models of temporal order perception, that perception of simultaneity inevitably results if temporal order cannot be discriminated.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)394-416
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 02.2011
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Psychology
  • Attention, Prior entry, Simultaneity, Temporal order judgement