Contextual effects on duration perception are modality-specific

Nahal Binur, Bat Sheva Hadad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The perception of magnitude, crucial for a mental representation of the physical world, is often subject to significant biases. Many of these biases are similar across sensory modalities, implying a generalized perception of magnitude. At the same time, some physical magnitudes might have a dedicated modality-specific calibration mechanism to enhance perceptual sensitivity. We examined this question of generalized versus modality-specific processes testing between- and within-modalities' contextual effects on the perception of magnitude. In a constant stimuli procedure, a central standard was embedded in shorter and longer contextual standards. These contextual standards were sampled in either a relatively wider or narrower range of durations. Participants were asked to determine which of the two consecutive durations was longer. Better perceptual sensitivity was found for narrower contexts, with stronger effects in trials in which the standard was presented first. Interestingly, narrower context enhanced sensitivity for standards within the same modality but had no effect on standards of another modality. A unidirectional transfer of contextual effects was observed under certain conditions from auditory, the dominant modality in performing temporal judgments, to vision. These results suggest that the perceptual system appears to develop modality-specific calibration mechanisms, most likely, to enhance perceptual sensitivity and maintain sensory specialization. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1420-1429
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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