Niels Taatgen

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Time perception

Time perception can be studied as a topic on its own, but with the risk of ignoring what we know about the rest of cognition. A schematic of several theories of time perception is the following:

Although specific models have been successful in explaining various aspects of time perception, they often fail when they involve tasks in which time perception is just a part of a larger cognitive context. In the diagram above, the "rest of cognition" is represented by "Memory" and "Comparison". Even worse, general aspects of cognition like Attention are modeled using specific elements in the time estimation model, for example the "Attention" and "Gate components in the diagram. It is therefore a much better idea to view time perception as a component of a larger cognitive architecture, and let the architecture handle the more cognition-general aspects like attention and learning.

Together with Hedderik van Rijn I have developed a time perception module that is capable of modeling many phenomena documented in the time perception literature (Taatgen, van Rijn & Anderson, 2007).

Better account of attention

Instead of a specific attention component, we use ACT-R's serial bottleneck theory to model attention, producing more realistic and accurate accounts of attentional effects that specialized theories (Taatgen, van Rijn & Anderson, 2007).

Ability to model how people reason about time

Are people are able to perceive multiple intervals in parallel, and how do they deal with it?. We have found evidence for the fact that people are reasonably accurate, they with systematic errors that indicate they only use a single timing mechanism (van Rijn & Taatgen, 2008).

Better account of memory

How do people store their time experiences, and how do their retrieve them? We found that memory representations of time contaminate each other, which can be modeled through ACT-R's blending mechanism in memory (Taatgen & van Rijn, 2011).


This project was funded by the Office of Naval Research

Key references

Taatgen, N. A., Rijn, H. v., & Anderson, J. R. (2007). An Integrated Theory of Prospective Time Interval Estimation: The Role of Cognition, Attention and Learning. Psychological Review, 114(3), 577-598. (pdf and models)

van Rijn, H. & Taatgen, N.A. (2008). Timing of multiple overlapping time intervals: How many clocks do we have? Acta Psychologica, 129(3), 365-375. (pdf)

Taatgen, N.A. & van Rijn, H. (2011). Trace of times past: representations of temporal intervals in memory. Memory & Cognition, 39, 1546-1560. (link)