Effects of Learned Episodic Event Structure on Prospective Duration Judgments

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The field of psychology of time has typically distinguished between prospective timing and retrospective duration estimation: in prospective timing, participants attend to and encode time, whereas in retrospective estimation, estimates are based on the memory of what happened. Prior research on prospective timing has primarily focused on attentional mechanisms to explain timing behavior, but it remains unclear the extent to which memory processes may also play a role. The present studies investigate this issue, and specifically, the role of newly learned encoded event structure. Two structural properties of dynamic event sequences were examined, which are known to modulate retrospective duration estimates: the perceived number of segments and the similarity between them. We found that when duration and episodic event content are both attended to and encoded, more segments and less similarity between them led to longer attributed durations, despite clock duration remaining constant. In contrast, when only duration is attended to, only the number of segments influenced estimated durations. These findings indicate that incidentally or intentionally encoded episodic event structure modulates prospective duration judgments. Based on these and previous findings, implications for the role of memory mechanisms on prospective paradigms are discussed.

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