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Dev Sci. 2018 Nov 10:e12769. doi: 10.1111/desc.12769. [Epub ahead of print]

When causality shapes the experience of time: Evidence for temporal binding in young children.

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Department of Psychology, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
School of Psychology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK.
Department of Psychology, University College London, London, UK.
Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.


It is well established that the temporal proximity of two events is a fundamental cue to causality. Recent research with adults has shown that this relation is bidirectional: events that are believed to be causally related are perceived as occurring closer together in time-the so-called temporal binding effect. Here, we examined the developmental origins of temporal binding. Participants predicted when an event that was either caused by a button press, or preceded by a non-causal signal, would occur. We demonstrate for the first time that children as young as 4 years are susceptible to temporal binding. Binding occurred both when the button press was executed via intentional action, and when a machine caused it. These results suggest binding is a fundamental, early developing property of perception and grounded in causal knowledge. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at


causal binding; causality; intentional action; temporal binding; temporal contiguity; time perception


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