Adaptive Timing

Atser Damsma


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Four minutes at the bus stop can feel like an eternity, while time flies when we are watching an enjoyable movie. Our sense of time is very elastic. In this thesis, we investigate how people use previous experiences to predict how long something will last and when something will happen.

We show that experiences in memory have a direct influence on the way we experience time. When participants estimated a duration, we observed a faster build-up of brain activity if they had just estimated shorter durations. The brain does not seem to work like a static stopwatch, but instead creates active expectations based on previous experiences.

Does this mechanism of expectations still work when we are doing something else, for example, when we are listening to music while working? Our results show that people perceive drum rhythms in a musical way, even when they are performing another task. We observed that the size of the pupil increased when a beat was omitted from the rhythm. And the more important the beat, the larger the pupil. Thus, our eyes reveal how musical we subconsciously are.

All in all, this thesis shows that time can be seen as an inherent part of brain processes that adapt to a dynamically changing world.
Originele taal-2English
KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
Toekennende instantie
  • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
  • van Rijn, Hedderik, Supervisor
  • de Jong, Ritske, Supervisor
  • Taatgen, Niels, Supervisor
Datum van toekenning3-dec.-2020
Plaats van publicatie[Groningen]
Gedrukte ISBN's978-94-034-2623-5
Elektronische ISBN's978-94-034-2622-8
StatusPublished - 2020

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