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Joshua J. New, Brian J. Scholl; The spatial distribution of subjective time dilation. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):597. doi: 10.1167/6.6.597.
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Time can appear to slow down in certain brief real-life events — e.g. during car accidents or critical moments of athletes' performances. Such time dilation can also be produced to a smaller degree experimentally, e.g. when viewing an oddball stimulus in a sequence of otherwise identical stimuli (Tse et al., 2004, P&P). In this project we explored the spatial distribution of time dilation: Does time expand only for the oddball events themselves, or for all events occurring at that time? Observers viewed a sequence of centrally displayed shapes which appeared one at a time, and had to compare the duration of an intermittently appearing green target to the standard duration of the other randomly-colored nontarget shapes. A peripheral gray distractor disc was presented along with each shape for a shorter, fixed interval. Each distractor disc was either static or underwent a salient (‘oddball’) transformation, such as expanding in size or orbiting the central shape. With static distractors, targets' durations were accurately perceived. However, targets which were accompanied by oddball distractors were perceived to last considerably longer than their true durations, and in fact could not be distinguished from the objectively longer nontarget duration. Time dilation is thus not tied to oddball stimuli per se, and may be an invariably global experience. Additional experiments addressed whether this result is mediated via a spatial gradient of attentional enhancement, and the degree to which it is augmented by incorporating the target and distractor into a single object.
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