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Front Integr Neurosci. 2011 Oct 18;5:66. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2011.00066. eCollection 2011.

Moments in time.

Author information

1
Department of Empirical and Analytical Psychophysics, Institute for Frontier Areas in Psychology and Mental Health Freiburg, Germany.

Abstract

It has been suggested that perception and action can be understood as evolving in temporal epochs or sequential processing units. Successive events are fused into units forming a unitary experience or "psychological present." Studies have identified several temporal integration levels on different time scales which are fundamental for our understanding of behavior and subjective experience. In recent literature concerning the philosophy and neuroscience of consciousness these separate temporal processing levels are not always precisely distinguished. Therefore, empirical evidence from psychophysics and neuropsychology on these distinct temporal processing levels is presented and discussed within philosophical conceptualizations of time experience. On an elementary level, one can identify a functional moment, a basic temporal building block of perception in the range of milliseconds that defines simultaneity and succession. Below a certain threshold temporal order is not perceived, individual events are processed as co-temporal. On a second level, an experienced moment, which is based on temporal integration of up to a few seconds, has been reported in many qualitatively different experiments in perception and action. It has been suggested that this segmental processing mechanism creates temporal windows that provide a logistical basis for conscious representation and the experience of nowness. On a third level of integration, continuity of experience is enabled by working memory in the range of multiple seconds allowing the maintenance of cognitive operations and emotional feelings, leading to mental presence, a temporal window of an individual's experienced presence.

KEYWORDS:

psychophysics; temporal integration; the present; time perception

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