, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 903-921

The role of learning in remembered duration


In two experiments, the effects of learning on both the accuracy and bias of duration judgments were examined. In Experiment 1, subjects learned one of two tasks (i.e., using a computer software package, building a model car), containing a varying number of action steps, over a one-, three-, or five-trial period. Retrospective judgments of a task’s total duration revealed that accuracy was high at intermediate stages of learning but was low at early stages due to an overestimation bias and low at later stages due to an underestimation bias. The number of action steps within a task influenced behavior only at early learning stages where more action steps led to significantly longer duration estimates. Experiment 2 acted as a converging operation in which novice and experienced pianists were asked to estimate, in advance, how long they thought it would take them to play melodies that varied in their degree of familiarity (i.e. recently learned, well learned, extremely well learned). When these estimates were compared with the melodies’ actual playing times, results revealed a similar pattern of accuracy and bias as found in Experiment 1. These findings are discussed in terms of a “structural remembering model” that emphasizes the role of event predictability in time estimation behavior.

This research was supported by a Faculty Research Grant from Ha verford College and was presented at the annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Chicago, November 1996.