Eyes wide open: Regulation of arousal by temporal expectations

Nir Shalev, Anna C. Nobre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maintaining adequate levels of arousal is essential for sustaining performance on extended tasks. To investigate arousal in prolonged tasks such as driving studies have traditionally used monotonous task designs. Both ecological and experimental settings often contain embedded temporal regularities, but it is unknown whether these enable adaptive modulation of arousal. We explored whether temporal predictability can modulate arousal according to the timing of anticipated relevant events. In two experiments, we manipulated the temporal predictability of events to test for behavioural benefits and arousal modulation, using pupillometry as a proxy measure. High temporal predictability significantly lowered the tonic level of arousal briefly increased arousal in anticipation of upcoming stimuli, whereas low temporal predictability resulted in tonically elevated arousal. These novel findings suggest that arousal levels flexibly adapt to the temporal structures of events and bring about energy efficiencies in the context of high levels of behavioural performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105062
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Arousal
  • Pupillometry
  • Sustained attention
  • Temporal expectations
  • Theory of visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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