Discrimination levels and perceived duration of intra- and intermodal short time intervals

Authors: Azari Pishkenari, Leila
Advisor: Grondin, Simon
Abstract: This study examines the effect of intermodality on the discrimination of short time intervals. Every interval in the study is marked by two short sensory stimuli, each of which comes from either the same sensory modality (intramodal interval) or different sensory modalities (intermodal interval). A series of six experiments, each comprising eight experimental sessions, was carried out. A time bisection task was used in each of the experiments, based on which one could estimate for each participant in each experimental condition, the sensitivity or level of discrimination (the Weber fraction), and the perceived duration (the constant error). According to Weber’s law, the minimum difference necessary to distinguish two stimuli (sensitivity or differential threshold obtained based on psychometric functions arising from the bisection task) depends on their magnitude. The ratio of the threshold difference to magnitude, based on Weber’s law, should remain constant. Also, a higher Weber fraction means a worse level of discrimination. The magnitudes (standard durations) under study were 300 and 900 ms. The perceived duration is evaluated using the constant error, which is measured by subtracting the Point of Subjective Equality (PSE, on each psychometric function) from the value of one of the standard intervals (300 ms or 900 ms). A lower value of the constant error means that the duration is more often perceived as “short”. There were two sets of three experiments in the study. In the first series, for a given experiment, the sensory modality of the first marker delimiting the interval was the same (fixed condition), and the modality of the second marker was variable. In the second series, it was the second marker which, in a given experiment, remained of the same sensory modality whereas the first marker was variable. Markers could be auditory, visual, or tactile. In the eight sessions of each experiment, there were four sessions for each of the two standard duration conditions. In each experiment, there were also “certainty” and “uncertainty” conditions relative to the modal origin of the markers on each trial. The sensory modalities used in each study were again auditory (A), visual (V), and tactile (T). The results show that intramodal intervals are generally better discriminated (have a lower Weber fraction) than intermodal intervals. Also, the 900 ms intervals are better discriminated than those of 300 ms in all the intermodal marking conditions. In the intramodal marking conditions, however, the Weber fractions generally remained constant. The fact that the Weber fractions are higher at 300 than 900 ms is compatible with the generalized form of Weber’s law, which takes into account the fact that the variance of non-temporal origin in the discrimination process has more weight with short intervals than with long intervals. Whether or not participants know the marker's modality (certainty) has little or no effect on the level of discrimination. For the perceived duration, the results essentially revealed the following. Except for a few exceptions, intramodal intervals were considered to be shorter than intermodal intervals. In the comparison of the intermodal conditions, when the uncertainty was placed on the first marker, there were no significant differences between the conditions TA and VA intervals or between the conditions AV and TV, but the intervals AT were perceived as being longer than the VT intervals. To account for the different results in perceived durations, we can rely on the Attentional Gate Model (AGM). The AGM is an internal clock model of the pacemaker-accumulator type, the first module emitting pulses whose accumulation determines the perceived duration (Zakay & Block, 1997). The AGM contains a barrier and a switch, both under attention control. Therefore, according to this model, the greater efficiency (higher sensitivity) in intramodal conditions than in intermodal conditions could come from the efficiency of the switch process. Because in intramodal conditions, there is no attentional displacement from one modality to the other. The fact that intramodal intervals, under conditions of uncertainty, are often perceived as shorter than intermodal intervals could be explained by the fact that without attentional displacement, the second marker of an intramodal interval is detected more quickly than the second intermodal interval marker. However, this explanation encounters certain limits if we consider that, in most cases, whether uncertainty is placed on the first or second marker, the level of discrimination is little affected by it.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2020
Open Access Date: 14 February 2020
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11794/38117
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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