Whac-A-Mole: Implicit Adaptation to Temporal Regularities

Josh Salet*, Wouter Kruijne, Hedderik Rijn, van

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic

64 Downloads (Pure)


To anticipate upcoming events, we exploit temporal regularities in the environment and adapt our behaviour accordingly. In traditional studies concerning timing behaviour, the temporal regularity is isolated, and its importance for performance is evident. However, in everyday behaviour such adaptation is usually implicit. In this study, we developed a paradigm inspired by the arcade game ‘Whac-A-Mole’ to test whether temporal regularities lead to implicit adaptation of behaviour. In this game, participants scored points by moving the mouse cursor towards sudden-onset targets (the ‘moles’). Importantly, while two targets appeared at random times, one target contained a temporal regularity and appeared consistently every three seconds. The experiment consisted of an explicit phase, where participants were informed about the temporal regularity and its location, and an implicit phase, where they were not informed. A brief questionnaire, including an identification task in which participants needed to localise the regular target, revealed that participants were oblivious to the temporal regularity in the implicit block, even for the subset of participants who first completed the — informed — explicit block. Nevertheless, we found adaptation of behaviour to the temporal regularity in both conditions. Response times were lower and hit rates higher to the regular target. In addition, analyses of the mouse trajectories revealed that movements towards the regular target were initiated earlier. We conclude that the paradigm presented here allows us to measure implicit timing behaviour, and therefore paves the way for translating results from traditional timing studies to more ecological settings.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15-Oct-2019

Cite this