The Duration of Presence

  • Marc WittmannEmail author
Part of the Studies in Brain and Mind book series (SIBM, volume 9)


Regarding the present experience in the here and now, the question arises as to what the temporal limits of conscious awareness are. At least three levels of temporal present pertaining to temporal integration with different duration can be discerned: (1) in the range of milliseconds, the functional moment defines whether events are perceived as simultaneous or as appearing temporally ordered; (2) in the range of up to 2 or 3 s, the experienced moment is related to temporal segmentation which enables the conscious awareness of the present moment; (3) in the range of multiple seconds, continuity of experience is formed by working memory processes leading to the sense of mental presence. Present experience is a single unitary state. Therefore, experiences on lower levels of temporal integration are embedded and discontinuously fused into the highest level of integration: mental presence. Events occurring within an experienced moment are phenomenally present and integrated into working memory-related mental presence.


Presence Temporal integration Temporal order Experienced moment Conscious awareness 



Over the years the empirical and conceptual work presented here was supported by grants from the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Berlin), the Max Kade Foundation (New York), the National Institute of Drug Abuse (Bethesda), the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind (San Diego), the tri-national Neuroscience Network Neurex (Illkirch), and the Fundação Bial (Porto). The author was also supported by the European project COST ISCH Action TD0904 “Time In MEntaL activitY: theoretical, behavioral, bioimaging and clinical perspectives (TIMELY;” Thanks go to Bruno Mölder, Valtteri Arstila, and Peter Øhrstrøm for hosting the Turku workshop on “The philosophy and psychology of time: continuity, presence and the timing of experience” (14.8.–15.8.2013). At this meeting I got the chance to exchange with many philosophers and scientists on the topic of temporal presence. From this meeting and from continuous exchange, inspiration came from several people, which I would like to mention, namely Valtteri Arstila, Sean Power, Christoph Hoerl, Oliver Rashbrook, Ian Phillips. Finally, I want to mention the conceptual work on the topic presented here with Carlos Montemayor.


  1. Atmanspacher, Harald, Thomas Filk, and Hartmann Römer. 2004. Quantum zeno features of bistable perception. Biological Cybernetics 90: 33–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benovsky, Jiri. 2013. The present vs. the specious present. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4: 193–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benussi, Vittorio. 1913. Psychologie der Zeitauffassung. Heidelberg: Carl Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung.Google Scholar
  4. Bristow, Davina, John-Dylan Haynes, Richard Sylvester, Christopher Frith, and Geraint Rees. 2005. Blinking suppresses the neural response to unchanging retinal stimulation. Current Biology 15: 1296–1300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Busch, Niko, and Rufin VanRullen. 2014. Is visual perception like a continuous flow or a series of snapshots? In Subjective time: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of temporality, ed. Valtteri Arstila and Dan Lloyd, 161–178. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Caffier, Philipp, Udo Erdmann, and Peter Ullsperger. 2003. Experimental evaluation of eye-blink parameters as a drowsiness measure. European Journal of Applied Physiology 89: 319–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Craig, (A.D.). Bud. 2009. How do you feel—now? The anterior insula and human awareness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10: 59–70.Google Scholar
  8. Dainton, Barry. 2000. Stream of consciousness. Abindgon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dainton, Barry. 2008. Sensing change. Philosophical Issues 18: 362–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dainton, Barry. 2010. Temporal consciousness. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta. Accessed 17 May 2014.
  11. Exner, Sigmund. 1875. Experimentelle Untersuchung der einfachsten psychischen Processe. III. Abhandlung. Pflügers Archiv für die Gesamte Physiologie 11: 403–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fink, Martina, Pamela Ulbrich, Jan Churan, and Marc Wittmann. 2006. Stimulus-dependent processing of temporal order. Behavioral Processes 71: 344–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fraisse, Paul. 1984. Perception and estimation of time. Annual Review in Psychology 35: 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Franck, Georg. 2012. What kind of being is mental presence? Toward a novel analysis of the hard problem of consciousness. Mind and Matter 10: 9–24.Google Scholar
  15. Fujisaki, Waka, and Shin’ya Nishida. 2010. A common perceptual temporal limit of binding synchronous inputs across different sensory attributes and modalities. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 277: 2281–2290.Google Scholar
  16. Gallagher, Shaun. 2000. Philosophical conceptions of the self: Implications for cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4: 14–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gallagher, Shaun. 2013. A pattern theory of self. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7(443).Google Scholar
  18. Giersch, Anne, Laurence Lalanne, Mitsouko van Assche, and Mark A. Elliott. 2013. On disturbed time continuity in schizophrenia: an elementary impairment in visual perception? Frontiers in Psychology 4(281).Google Scholar
  19. Goldman-Rakic, Patricia. 1997. Space and time in the mental universe. Nature 386: 559–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hirsh, Ira J., and Carl E. Sherrick Jr. 1961. Perceived order in different sense modalities. Journal of Experimental Psychology 62: 423–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hoerl, Christoph. 2009. Time and tense in perceptual experience. Philosopher’s Imprint 9: 1–18.Google Scholar
  22. Hoerl, Christoph. 2013. A succession of feelings, in and of itself, is not a feeling of succession. Mind 122: 373–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holcombe, Alex O. 2009. Seeing slow and seeing fast: Two limits on perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13: 216–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Husserl, Edmund. 1928. Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag. English edition: Husserl, Edmund. 1991. Lectures on the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal time. In On the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal time (1893–1917). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  25. James, William. 1890. The principles of psychology. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kiverstein, Julian. 2009. The minimal sense of self, temporality and the brain. Psyche 15: 59–74.Google Scholar
  27. Kiverstein, Julian. 2010. Making sense of phenomenal unity: An intentionalist account of temporal experience. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 85: 155–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kiverstein, Julian, and Valtteri Arstila. 2013. Time in mind. In A companion to the philosophy of time, ed. Heather Dyke and Adrian Bardon, 444–469. Chichester: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lloyd, Dan. 2004. Radiant cool: A novel theory of consciousness. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  30. Lloyd, Dan. 2012. Neural correlates of temporality: Default mode variability and temporal awareness. Consciousness and Cognition 21: 695–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. London, Justin. 2002. Cognitive constraints on metric systems: Some observations and hypotheses. Music Perception 19: 529–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martinez-Conde, Susana, Stephen Macknik, Xoana Troncoso, and David Hubel. 2009. Microsaccades: A neurophysiological analysis. Trends in Neurosciences 32: 463–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mates, Jiří, Ulrike Müller, Tomáš Radil, and Ernst Pöppel. 1994. Temporal in sensorimotor synchronization. Journal Cognitive Neuroscience 6: 332–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McAuley, J. Devin, Mari Riess Jones, Shayla Holub, Heather M. Johnston, and Nathaniel S. Miller. 2006. The time of our lives: Life span development of timing and event tracking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 135: 348–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Metzinger, Thomas. 2004. Being no one: The self-model theory of subjectivity. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Miyazaki, Makoto, Shinya Yamamoto, Sunao Uchida, and Shigeru Kitazawa. 2006. Bayesian calibration of simultaneity in tactile temporal order judgment. Nature Neuroscience 9: 875–877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mölder, Bruno. 2014. How philosophical models explain time consciousness. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences 126: 48–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Montemayor, Carlos. 2013. Minding time: A theoretical and philosophical approach to the psychology of time. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  39. Nagel, Thomas. 1974. What it is like to be a bat? The Philosophical Review 83: 435–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nakajima, Yoshitaka, Shinsuku Shimojo, and Yoichi Sugita. 1980. On the perception of two successive sound bursts. Psychological Research 41: 335–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Peters, Michael. 1989. The relationship between variability of intertap intervals and interval duration. Psychological Research 51: 38–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Peterson, Lloyd R., and Margaret J. Peterson. 1959. Short-term retention of individual verbal items. Journal of Experimental Psychology 58: 193–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pilz, Karin S., Christina Zimmermann, Janine Scholz, and Michael H. Herzog. 2013. Long-lasting visual integration of form, motion, and color as revealed by visual masking. Journal of Vision 13: 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Poggel, Dorothe, Bernhard Treutwein, Claudia Calmanti, and Hans Strasburger. 2012. The Tölz temporal topography study: Mapping the visual field across the life span. Part I: The topography of light detection and temporal-information processing. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 74: 1114–1132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pöppel, Ernst. 1988. Mindworks: Time and conscious experience. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  46. Pöppel, Ernst. 2009. Pre-semantically defined window for cognitive processing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364: 1887–1896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pöppel, Ernst, Kerstin Schill, and Nicole von Steinbüchel. 1990. Sensory integration within temporally neutral system states: A hypothesis. Naturwissenschaften 77: 89–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Power, Sean. 2012. The metaphysics of the “specious” present. Erkenntnis 77: 121–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rammsayer, Thomas, and Eckart Altenmüller. 2006. Temporal information processing in musicians and nonmusicians. Music Perception 24: 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rashbrook, Oliver. 2013. The continuity of consciousness. European Journal of Philosophy 21: 611–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Revonsuo, Antti. 2006. Inner presence: Consciousness as a biological phenomenon. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  52. Ross, John, M. Concetta Morrone, Michael E. Goldberg, and David C. Burr. 2001. Changes in visual perception at the time of saccades. Trends in Neuroscience 24: 113–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rubin, David C., and Amy E. Wenzel. 1996. One hundred years of forgetting: A quantitative description of retention. Psychological Review 103: 734–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Seth, Anil K., Keisuke Suzuki, and Hugo D. Critchley. 2012. An interoceptive predictive coding model of conscious presence. Frontiers in Psychology 2: 395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stern, William. 1897. Psychische Präsenzzeit. Zeitschrift für Psychologie und die Physiologie der Sinnesorgane 13: 325–349.Google Scholar
  56. Szelag, Elzbieta, Nicole von Steinbüchel, Mathias Reiser, Ernst Gilles de Langen, and Ernst Pöppel. 1996. Temporal constraints in processing of nonverbal rhythmic patterns. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis 56: 215–225.Google Scholar
  57. Trevarthen, Colwyn. 1999. Musicality and the intrinsic motive pulse: Evidence from human psychobiology and infant communication. Musicae Scientiae (Special Issue 1999–2000) 3: 155–215.Google Scholar
  58. Tschacher, Wolfgang, Fabian Ramseyer, and Claudia Bergomi. 2013. The subjective present and its modulation in clinical contexts. Timing & Time Perception 1: 239–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ulbrich, Pamela, Jan Churan, Martina Fink, and Marc Wittmann. 2009. Perception of temporal order: The effects of age, sex, and cognitive factors. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition 16: 183–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. van Wassenhove, Virginie. 2009. Minding time—An amodel representational space for time perception. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364: 1815–1830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. van Wassenhove, Virginie, Ken W. Grant, and David Poeppel. 2007. Temporal window of integration in auditory-visual speech perception. Neuropsychologia 45: 598–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vanrullen, Rufin, and Christof Koch. 2003. Is perception discrete or continuous? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7: 207–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Varela, Francisco J. 1999. Present-time consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 6: 111–140.Google Scholar
  64. Vatakis, Argiro, and Charles Spence. 2007. Crossmodal binding: Evaluating the “unity assumption” using audiovisual speech stimuli. Perception & Psychophysics 69: 744–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wackermann, Jiří. 2007. Inner and outer horizons of time experience. Spanish Journal of Psychology 10: 20–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Warren, Richard M., and Charles J. Obusek. 1972. Identification of temporal order within auditory sequences. Perception & Psychophysics 12: 86–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wittmann, Marc. 2014. Embodied time: The experience of time, the body, and the self. In Subjective time: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of temporality, ed. Valtteri Arstila and Dan Lloyd, 507–523. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  68. Wittmann, Marc, Ernst Pöppel. 2000. Temporal mechanisms of the brain as fundamentals of communication—with special reference to music perception and performance. Musicae Scientiae (Special Issue 1999–2000) 3: 13–28.Google Scholar
  69. Wittmann, Marc. 2011. Moments in time. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 5(66).Google Scholar
  70. Wittmann, Marc, Nicole von Steinbüchel, and Elzbieta Szelag. 2001. Hemispheric specialisation for self-paced motor sequences. Cognitive Brain Research 10: 341–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Yarrow, Kielan, Patrick Haggard, Ron Heal, Peter Brown, and John C. Rothwell. 2001. Illusory perceptions of space and time preserve cross-saccadic perceptual continuity. Nature 414: 302–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zahavi, Dan. 2005. Subjectivity and selfhood: Investigating the first-person perspective. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental HealthFreiburgGermany

Personalised recommendations