Cross-Modal Distortion of Time Perception: Demerging the Effects of Observed and Performed Motion

Joachim Hass, Stefan Blaschke, J. Michael Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temporal information is often contained in multi-sensory stimuli, but it is currently unknown how the brain combines e.g. visual and auditory cues into a coherent percept of time. The existing studies of cross-modal time perception mainly support the ?modality appropriateness hypothesis?, i.e. the domination of auditory temporal cues over visual ones because of the higher precision of audition for time perception. However, these studies suffer from methodical problems and conflicting results. We introduce a novel experimental paradigm to examine cross-modal time perception by combining an auditory time perception task with a visually guided motor task, requiring participants to follow an elliptic movement on a screen with a robotic manipulandum. We find that subjective duration is distorted according to the speed of visually observed movement: The faster the visual motion, the longer the perceived duration. In contrast, the actual execution of the arm movement does not contribute to this effect, but impairs discrimination performance by dual-task interference. We also show that additional training of the motor task attenuates the interference, but does not affect the distortion of subjective duration. The study demonstrates direct influence of visual motion on auditory temporal representations, which is independent of attentional modulation. At the same time, it provides causal support for the notion that time perception and continuous motor timing rely on separate mechanisms, a proposal that was formerly supported by correlational evidence only. The results constitute a counterexample to the modality appropriateness hypothesis and are best explained by Bayesian integration of modality-specific temporal information into a centralized ?temporal hub?.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere38092
Number of pages8
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2012


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