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Subjective Time

The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Temporality

Valtteri Arstila

Publication Year: 2014

Our awareness of time and temporal properties is a constant feature of conscious life. Subjective temporality structures and guides every aspect of behavior and cognition, distinguishing memory, perception, and anticipation. This milestone volume brings together research on temporality from leading scholars in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, defining a new field of interdisciplinary research. The book's thirty chapters include selections from classic texts by William James and Edmund Husserl and new essays setting them in historical context; contemporary philosophical accounts of lived time; and current empirical studies of psychological time. These last chapters, the larger part of the book, cover such topics as the basic psychophysics of psychological time, its neural foundations, its interaction with the body, and its distortion in illness and altered states of consciousness. <B>Contributors</B>Melissa J. Allman, Holly Andersen, Valtteri Arstila, Yan Bao, Dean V. Buonomano, Niko A. Busch, Barry Dainton, Sylvie Droit-Volet, Christine M. Falter, Thomas Fraps, Shaun Gallagher, Alex O. Holcombe, Edmund Husserl, William James, Piotr Jaskowski, Jeremie Jozefowiez, Ryota Kanai, Allison N. Kurti, Dan Lloyd, Armando Machado, Matthew S. Matell, Warren H. Meck, James Mensch, Bruno Mölder, Catharine Montgomery, Konstantinos Moutoussis, Peter Naish, Valdas Noreika, Sukhvinder S. Obhi, Ruth Ogden, Alan o'Donoghue, Georgios Papadelis, Ian B. Phillips, Ernst Pöppel, John E. R. Staddon, Dale N. Swanton, Rufin VanRullen, Argiro Vatakis, Till M. Wagner, John Wearden, Marc Wittmann, Agnieszka Wykowska, Kielan Yarrow, Bin Yin, Dan Zahavi

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xii

A Something happens — you see “A .” Or, “A appears to you.” Now, B, something else. A and B differ in shape and location, two spatial properties you can easily and immediately distinguish. But they also differ in their time of occurrence, equally easy to discern. You were aware that A was first, that a short interval separated A and B, an...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Our first thanks go to the forty-one authors who have contributed to this volume. In addition to lively email exchanges, we have had additional opportunities for conversation and collaboration with many of the contributors, including Yan Bao, Dean Buonomano, Niko A. Busch, Christine M. Falter, Thomas Fraps, Warren Meek, Bruno Mölder, Konstantinos...


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pp. xv-xviii

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I. Historical Sources

Time has been a perennial issue for philosophy. It held center stage before Socrates, as the first Western “natural philosophers” grappled with the origin of all things — already a question of transformation, from chaotic beginnings to the present world they observed. Thus change, and the interchange of one and many, perplexed them, leading to debates among...

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1. Excerpts from The Principles of Psychology

William James

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pp. 3-24

[p. v] … Every natural science assumes certain [p. vi] data uncritically, and declines to challenge the elements between which its own ‘laws’ obtain, and from which its own deductions are carried on. Psychology, the science of finite individual minds, assumes as its data (1) thoughts and feelings , and (2) a physical world in time and space with which they coexist and...

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2. The Development of the “Specious Present” and James’s Views on Temporal Experience

Holly Andersen

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pp. 25-42

The term “specious present” was introduced to philosophy and psychology by William James in his influential Principles of Psychology, (1890). The specious present doctrine, as it is often referred to, is the view that we experience the present moment as nonpunctate, as having some short but nonzero duration. It can be illustrated by comparing our...

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3. A Brief Account of Husserl’s Conception of Our Consciousness of Time

James Mensch

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pp. 43-60

Husserl’s texts on time consciousness are among the most difficult he penned. He devoted only a single published monograph, The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness, to the subject. 1 The editing of this text is largely the work of Edith Stein, who compiled it in 1917 from earlier lectures and notes, her task being complicated by the fact that Husserl...

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4. The Structure of Lived Time

Edmund Husserl (translated by James Mensch)

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pp. 61-74

We should start by making a few general remarks with regard to a phenomenological analysis of time-consciousness. As with all such analyses, this involves the complete exclusion of every assumption, stipulation, and conviction with regard to objective time (with regard to all transcendent presuppositions about existents). Objectively speaking, every experience...

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II. Contemporary Philosophies of Lived Time

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pp. 75-82

How long is “now”? In the tradition of James and Husserl, philosophers examine subjective time through the phenomenological analysis of the experience of temporality. Whether “continental” or “analytic” in philosophical flavor, these analyses acknowledge from the outset that the awareness of time raises special questions. The “now” of awareness seems to...

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5. Primal Impression and Enactive Perception

Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi

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pp. 83-100

Philosophers and cognitive scientists have recently argued that perception is enactive (e.g., Varela, Thompson, & Rosch 1991; Noë , 2004; Di Paolo, 2009).1 To put it simply, perception is action-oriented. When I perceive something, I perceive it as actionable. That is, I perceive it as something I can reach, or not; something I can pick up, or not; something I can hammer...

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6. The Phenomenal Continuum

Barry Dainton

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pp. 101-138

Think of what it is like to see and hear a large firework rocket go off. Shortly after ignition, one hears the whooosh as the rocket streaks into the night sky, and a few moments later the loud BANG as it erupts into a rapidly expanding shell of glittering, colored sparks. Change, succession and persistence seem to be vividly and immediately present in our...

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7. The Temporal Structure of Experience

Ian Phillips

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pp. 139-158

This chapter defends a naïve view of the relation between the temporal structure of the objects of experience, and the temporal structure of experience itself. According to the naïve view, when all goes well, your stream of consciousness inherits the temporal structure of the events that are its contents. You “take in” the temporal structure of the events you...

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III. Choppy Streams of Consciousness

“When I’m looking at the car first, it seems far away. But then, when I want to cross the road, suddenly the car is very near.” Thus reports patient LM, a sufferer of akinetopsia, or motion blindness (Zihl, Von Cramon, & Mai, 1983, 315). According to Zihl et al., LM “had difficulty, for example, in pouring tea or coffee into a cup because the fluid appeared to be...

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8. Is Visual Perception Like a Continuous Flow or a Series of Snapshots?

Niko A. Busch and Rufin VanRullen

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pp. 161-178

While there is virtually no debate over the fact that the world exists continuously and that movie cameras and many other technical devices operate in a discrete fashion, there is an old and still-ongoing debate regarding whether the world is represented in a continuous or a discrete fashion in the human mind. Moreover, the notions of what it means to say that...

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9. Are There Cracks in the Facade of Continuous Visual Experience?

Alex O. Holcombe

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pp. 179-198

In a bowling alley, a professional player launches his ball down the lane. As the ball rolls toward the pins, our visual experience of it is smooth and seamless. The ball shifts in position continuously, and this seems to be represented with high fidelity by our brain. There are no subjective gaps, no stutter, and no noticeable blur. One might assume that, in every instant, the brain simply processes the retinal input...

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IV. Fragments of Time

The wagon wheel illusion (as it appears in continuous lighting, away from the silver screen) seemed at first to support the idea that perception is a stream of cinematic snapshots. The EEG studies of Busch and VanRullen (chapter 8) point at least to oscillations in sensitivity in perception — to be perceived, it helps to catch the nearest alpha wave. This periodicity...

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10. Perceptual Asynchrony in Vision

Konstantinos Moutoussis

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pp. 201-216

Studies of the visual system in both monkey and human have suggested a picture of functional specialization with respect to the processing of different visual attributes (Zeki, 1993). Such a specialization makes sense, since the computational procedures for the processing of, say, color are quite different from those necessary for the processing of, say...

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11. Constructing Time: Dennett and Grush on Temporal Representation

Bruno Mölder

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pp. 217-238

Incorporating the role of time is necessary for those theories that attempt to explain our conscious experience as well as for theories about the information processing that underpins experience. This chapter focuses on two models that have taken temporal properties, both at the level of experience and at the level of information processing, under special...

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V. Subjective Times and Lived Time

From lived time in the first two sections, this volume has turned toward laboratory time — that is, the perception of changes in artificial and sometimes unnatural environments — to reveal the ongoing construction of temporal perception and judgment. In style and nomenclature, phenomenology feels remote from the language of psychological experiment. But...

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12. Temporal Windows as a Bridge from Objective to Subjective Time

Ernst Pöppel and Yan Bao

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pp. 241-262

What is the present? Is it the border with no temporal extension between past and future? Or is the present a temporal interval with some duration that can be measured? If the present has only one meaning, both answers cannot be true. But has the “present” just one meaning? This is only one question if one deals with subjective time and how it relates to...

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13. Time and Magic — Manipulating Subjective Temporality

Thomas Fraps

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pp. 263-286

The interest of scientists in examining the psychological, perceptual, and cognitive methods developed by magicians can be traced back over a hundred years (Binet, 1894; Jastrow, 1897; Triplett, 1900), predating a now-classic essay on the theory of magic written by two of the most influential magicians of that era (Maskelyne & Devant, 1911), who already acknowledged...

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14. Subjective Duration in the Laboratory and the World Outside

John Wearden, Alan O ’ Donoghue, Ruth Ogden, and Catharine Montgomery

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pp. 287-306

This chapter deals with the topic of subjective duration, defined as judgments of various sorts about how long stimuli and events last, or judgments about how fast time seems to pass. Studies of subjective duration have formed the major part of the study of time perception by psychologists (see Fraisse, 1964, for example), although duration judgments are only part...

VI. Intersections: Timeless Philosophy and Timely Experiment

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15. Subjective Time: From Past to Future

Valtteri Arstila and Dan Lloyd

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pp. 309-322

It is natural to think of passing time as a kind of motion. But in this metaphor, what moves and what does not? With respect to the river of time, do you stand on the bank and watch time flow by? Or are you floating in the river, flowing along with time as it passes by the landscape? In the chapters preceding, we saw a distinction in metaphorical framework that...

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VII. Off the Clock

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pp. 323-328

If we had an organ for sensing time, how would it work? The phenomenology and psychology of time lead naturally to this question, the theme of the second half of Subjective Time. In physical (and metaphysical) terms, Time may be simple, a dimension among others. But the previous chapters confirm that subjective time is far from simple. Our lived experience...

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16. The Neural Mechanisms of Timing on Short Timescales

Dean V. Buonomano

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pp. 329-342

In modern society, our lives are dependent on the technological innovations that have allowed us to keep track of time — from the nanosecond accuracy of the atomic clocks used for global-positioning systems to the clocking of our yearly trip around the sun. In between these extremes we track the minutes and hours that govern our activities. We rely daily on...

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17. Illusory Distortion of Subjective Time Perception

Ryota Kanai

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pp. 343-354

Our conscious experience is remarkably diverse, including as it does experiences ranging from seeing the marvelous red and orange colors of a sunset to the unpleasant feeling of pain that makes you moan. The experience of the passage of time constitutes an essential dimension common across diverse forms of conscious experience, since subjective experience...

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18. Cognitive versus Associative Decision Rules in Timing

J. Jozefowiez, A. Machado, and J. E. R. Staddon

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pp. 355-376

Though assisted by constructed clocks and calendars, our sense of time is actually deeply rooted in biological mechanisms we share with all other animal species (Lejeune & Wearden, 1991). Our understanding of these mechanisms has been much advanced by operant-conditioning experiments with humans and (infrahuman) animals. In these experiments, an...

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VIII. What and When

Perception is embodied, as many of the previous chapters emphasize. What we sense is interwoven with how we sense it, a function of moving organs and limbs in a dynamical dance with shifting environments. The authors of the previous section considered action governed by prospective timing, where an animal needs to wait before it acts. In this section...

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19. What Determines Simultaneity and Order Perception?

Piotr Ja ś kowski

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pp. 379-408

All physical objects in the universe are embedded in three-dimensional space, and all physical events are immersed in time. Therefore, to properly act, human beings evolved abilities to orient in space and to put events in temporal order. It seems quite easy to say that an event occurred earlier than another one. However, this task becomes more difficult when the events...

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20. The Research on Audiovisual Perception of Temporal Order and the Processing of Musical Temporal Patterns: Associations, Pitfalls, and Future Directions

Argiro Vatakis and Georgios Papadelis

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pp. 409-430

Almost all everyday acts are governed by time. Acts such as walking and speaking are often taken for granted and are considered easy to execute and understand. These acts, however, are not nearly as easy as they appear to be. They are in fact highly complex acts that unfold over time and require attending and perceiving the temporal order of the individual units...

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21. On the Flexibility of Human Temporal Resolution

Agnieszka Wykowska and Valtteri Arstila

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pp. 431-452

Our ability to efficiently interact with the environment is to a large extent dependent on how exact we are in perceiving the world’s temporal properties. Imagine a situation in which one is to cross a busy street. Such an environment requires a temporal resolution down to the milliseconds range to be able to estimate the speed of an approaching car and its distance...

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IX. Action and Passion

“Here” and “now” are fantastically elastic concepts. Here I am, in our local arm of the Milky Way. But I ’ m just as much here in front of the computer. My Now can be broadly construed as the current geological epoch (as opposed to Then, the Age of Dinosaurs), or zoomed to the instantaneous Now of approximately 10:13:24 a.m. “I” sit comfortably in heres of all...

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22. Temporal Perception in the Context of Action

Kielan Yarrow and Sukhvinder S. Obhi

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pp. 455-476

We do not usually experience the world as passive recipients of sensory information. Instead, we explore our environment through action. For senses like sight and touch, a framework exists to explain how we can interpret and predict the consequences of our own actions. In order to accurately distinguish sensory events arising in the environment from the sensations...

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23. What Emotions Tell Us about Time

Sylvie Droit-Volet

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pp. 477-506

When we compare the episodes of our everyday lives experienced in different emotional states, we have the strange impression that time is either sped up or slowed down. While time seems like an eternity when waiting for someone we love, it suddenly seems to fly when the loved one arrives. Time no longer exists! Initially, the study of our feeling of time...

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24. Embodied Time: The Experience of Time, the Body, and the Self

Marc Wittmann

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pp. 507-524

Daily rhythms of many biological and psychological functions are controlled by an endogenous biological clock with a period of approximately 24 h (Roenneberg, Daan, & Merrow, 2003). Circadian clocks, which are entrained by light, regulate physiology and behavior over the course of the day and enable an organism to anticipate and prepare for regular environmental...

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X. Altered Times

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pp. 525-528

As the preceding chapters have made evident, in many settings humans are inept timers. One might suppose that our collective defects are momentary, acute episodes, hiccups in the flow of subjective time. Perhaps our misapprehensions are each fairly quickly corrected by some combination of internal and external cues. In contrast, the chapters in this section...

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25. Variability of Duration Perception: From Natural and Induced Alterations to Psychiatric Disorders

Valdas Noreika, Christine M. Falter, and Till M. Wagner

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pp. 529-556

In an early paper on the experience of time in mental disorders, Lewis (1932 , 617 – 618) provided a number of subjective reports of unusual temporal distortions collected from psychiatric patients, such as that by an individual suffering from “involutional melancholia” 1: I can’t estimate time. I can’t say what time it is because it’s an artificial day; what you call a day with...

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26. Time Processing in Developmental Disorders: A Comparative View

Christine M. Falter and Valdas Noreika

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pp. 557-598

Developmental disorders typically manifest themselves during infancy or childhood. In contrast to disorders acquired in adulthood, disorders with an onset early in development can lead to further cascading effects on brain functions that are not primarily affected by influencing the pace and direction of developmental trajectories. Dysfunctions associated...

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27. The Potential Link between Temporal Averaging and Drug-Taking Behavior

Allison N. Kurti, Dale N. Swanton, and Matthew S. Matell

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pp. 599-620

The capacity to perceive time in the seconds to minutes range, or interval timing, allows organisms to develop temporal expectations about when significant events should occur, therein promoting the efficient organization of behavior. However, disruptions in temporal perception, such as those that have been seen following drug use, for example amphetamine...

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28. The Perception of Time in Hypnosis

Peter Naish

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pp. 621-636

It would be understandable for a reader to wonder why, out of all the situations that might reasonably have an influence upon time perception, something as esoteric as hypnosis has been chosen as a topic. As might be guessed, it is because hypnosis has a rather special impact upon temporal judgment, and trying to discover why has the potential to add to...

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29. Time in the Psychopathological Mind

Melissa J. Allman, Bin Yin, and Warren H. Meck

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pp. 637-654

What does “time” mean to you? Think about the Grand Canyon for a moment: try to imagine millions of years of erosion by the Colorado River, revealing billions of years of the Earth’s geological history. It’s hard to imagine all of that time . Time itself can bestow historical beauty and appeal, and like other aspects of psychophysics and perception, controls...

XI. Reflections

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30. The Disunity of Time

Dan Lloyd and Valtteri Arstila

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pp. 657-664

In our mundane terrestrial pursuits, local clocks unite to give the one and only current time, fixing orders and intervals. Since physics follows the clock, we are obliged to be aware of time and timing in order to act effectively and perceive accurately in the real world. Our sensitivities to orders and intervals fall under the general concept of subjective time. In its...


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pp. 665-668

E-ISBN-13: 9780262322744
E-ISBN-10: 0262322749
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262019941

Page Count: 688
Publication Year: 2014