Is interval timing learned, memory-based and embodied? Answers from a new connectionist, developmental model

Addyman, C. 1 , French, R. 2 , Mareschal, D. 1 & Thomas, E. 2

1 Birkbeck, University of London, UK
2 University of Burgundy, Dijon, France

Interval timing concerns our ability to judge, compare and reproduce time estimates for durations shorter than a few minutes. Traditional theories posit a set of innate pacemakers-accumulators that work like stopwatches (Gibbon, 1977). These theories take no account of the problem of starting a separate stopwatch for every event that might later require a time estimate nor how experience could improve timing ability. We believe that timing ability is learned and is an ability that develops during infancy. Moreover, we believe that early timing abilities are grounded in early motor activity and that time estimates are based upon decaying memory traces for recent events. In this paper we present preliminary results from an empirical research program investigating these ideas. We present the first developmental model of interval timing. It is a memory-based connectionist model of how infants learn to perceive time. It has several novel features that are not found in other models. First, it uses the uncertainty of a memory for an event as an index of how long ago that event happened. Second, embodiment - specifically, infant motor activity - is crucial to the calibration of time-perception both within and across sensory modalities. Third, it can account for the complementary effects of attentional load on prospective and retrospective time judgments in a single framework. We describe the model and present simulation data.