Original Article

Psychological Research

, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 77-87

First online:

Perceived duration of expected and unexpected stimuli

  • Rolf UlrichAffiliated withPsychologisches Institut, Universität Tübingen Email author 
  • , Judith NitschkeAffiliated withPsychologisches Institut, Universität Tübingen
  • , Thomas RammsayerAffiliated withUniversität Göttingen

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Three experiments assessed whether perceived stimulus duration depends on whether participants process an expected or an unexpected visual stimulus. Participants compared the duration of a constant standard stimulus with a variable comparison stimulus. Changes in expectancy were induced by presenting one type of comparison more frequently than another type. Experiment 1 used standard durations of 100 and 400 ms, and Experiments 2 and 3 durations of 400 and 800 ms. Stimulus frequency did not affect perceived duration in Experiment 1. In Experiments 2 and 3, however, frequent comparisons were perceived as shorter than infrequent ones, and discrimination performance was better for infrequent comparisons. Overall, this study supports the notion that infrequent stimuli increase the speed of an internal pacemaker.