The simultaneous oddball: Oddball presentation does not affect simultaneity judgments


The oddball duration illusion describes how a rare or nonrepeated stimulus is perceived as lasting longer than a common or repeated stimulus. It has been argued that the oddball duration illusion could emerge because of an earlier perceived onset of an oddball stimulus. However, most methods used to assess the perceived duration of an oddball stimulus are ill suited to detect onset effects. Therefore, in the current article, I tested the perceived onset of oddball and standard stimuli using a simultaneity judgment task. In Experiments 1 and 2, repetition and rarity of the target stimulus were varied, and participants were required to judge whether the target stimulus and another stimulus were concurrent. In Experiment 3, I tested whether a brief initial stimulus could act as a conditioning stimulus in the oddball duration illusion. This was to ensure an oddball duration illusion could have occurred given the short duration of stimuli in the first two experiments. In both the first two experiments, I found moderate support for no onset-based difference between oddball and nonoddball stimuli. In Experiment 3, I found that a short conditioning stimulus could still lead to the oddball duration illusion occurring, removing this possible explanation for the null result. Experiment 4 showed that an oddball duration illusion could emerge given the rarity of the stimulus and a concurrent sound. In sum, the current article found evidence against an onset-based explanation of the oddball duration illusion.

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  1. 1.

    This definition was chosen, rather than the peak of the function, as it corresponds to the PSS in the model by Yarrow (2018); functionally, the observer model of Yarrow and Alcalá-Quintana and García-Pérez (2013) are equivalent; while the Yarrow-type model estimates the upper and lower decision boundary, the Alcalá-Quintana and García-Pérez model finds a midpoint and the range of subjective simultaneity. However, analysis of the peak gave a similar result.

  2. 2.

    Recently, the SJ task has been preferred to other tasks due to a reduced response bias (see, for example, Spence & Parise, 2010, for an introduction to the issue, and Yarrow, Martin, Di Costa, Solomon, & Arnold, 2016, for experimental results comparing different task types).

  3. 3.

    Experiment 1a: mean χ2 = 4.23, p = .413. Experiment 1b: mean χ2 = 4.50, p = .399. Experiment 2a: mean χ2 = 3.93, p = .474. Experiment 2b: mean χ2 = 4.58, p = .423.

  4. 4.

    In brief, this involved normalizing each mean RT for each binned duration in each condition by dividing by the sum of the mean RTs for each participant. Each binned duration was then multiplied by its corresponding weight, and the results were summed within each condition for each participant.

  5. 5.

    This was evenly spread amongst the possible shapes.


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Wehrman, J. The simultaneous oddball: Oddball presentation does not affect simultaneity judgments. Atten Percept Psychophys (2020).

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  • Repetition effects
  • Decision making
  • Attentional capture