Repetition, expectation, and the perception of time

William J. Matthews, Ana I. Gheorghiu

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Prior experience with a stimulus profoundly affects how it is processed, perceived, and acted upon. One striking finding is that repeated items seem to last for less time than novel or rare ones. This link between the processing of stimulus identity and the perception of stimulus duration has important implications for theories of timing, and for broader accounts of the organization, purpose, and neural basis of perception. Here, we examine the nature and basis of the repetition effect on subjective duration. Contrary to unitary accounts which equate repetition effects with implicit expectations about forthcoming stimuli, new work suggests that first-order repetition and second-order repetition–expectations differentially affect the perception of time. We survey emerging evidence from behavioural studies of time perception and neuroscientific studies of stimulus encoding which support this view, and outline key questions for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-116
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
Early online date16 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • RCUK
  • ESRC
  • ES/J500045/1


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