The Time of Our Lives: Life Span Development of Timing and Event Tracking

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Life span developmental profiles were constructed for 305 participants (ages 4–95) for a battery of paced and unpaced perceptual-motor timing tasks that included synchronize-continue tapping at a wide range of target event rates. Two life span hypotheses, derived from an entrainment theory of timing and event tracking, were tested. A preferred period hypothesis predicted a monotonic slowing of a preferred rate (tempo) of event tracking across the life span. An entrainment region hypothesis predicted a quadratic profile in the range of event rates that produced effective timing across the life span; specifically, age-specific entrainment regions should be narrower in childhood and late adulthood than in midlife. Findings across tasks provide converging support for both hypotheses. Implications of these findings are discussed for understanding critical periods in development and age-related slowing of event timing.

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