User:Christian Erdman/chronostasis sandbox

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Chronostasis (from Greek χρόνος, chrónos, "time" and στάσις, stásis, "standing") is the illusion in which the first impression following the introduction of a new event or task demand to the brain appears to be extended in time.[1] The most well-known version of this illusion is the stopped-clock illusion, where the first movement of the second hand of an analog clock, following the viewer's directing attention to the clock, appears to take longer than the next movement. [2] This illusion can also be found within the auditory system. For instance, when listening to ringing tones after making a call, moving the telephone receiver to the opposite ear commonly causes the caller to overestimate the length of time between rings.[1]

Mechanism of action[edit]

Overall, chronostasis occurs as a result of a disconnect in the communication between visual sensation and perception. Sensation, information collected from our eyes, is usually directly interpreted to create our perception. This perception is the collection of information that we consciously interpret from visual information.[3] However, quick eye movements known as saccades disrupt this flow of information. Because research into the neurology associated with visual processing is ongoing, there is renewed debate regarding the exact timing of changes in perception that lead to chronostasis.[4] However, below is a description of the general series of events that lead to chronostasis, using the example of a student looking up from his desk toward a clock in the classroom.

  1. The eyes receive information from the environment regarding one particular focus. This sensory input is sent directly to the visual cortex to be processed. After visual processing, we consciously perceive this object of focus.[5] In the context of a student in a classroom, the student’s eyes focus on a paper on their desk. After his eyes collect light reflected off of the paper and this information is processed in his visual cortex, the student consciously perceives the paper in front of him.
  2. Following either a conscious decision or an involuntary perception of a stimulus in the periphery of the visual field, the eyes intend to move to a second target of interest.[6] For the student described above, this may occur as he decides that he wishes to check the clock at the front of the classroom.
  3. The muscles of the eye contract and it begins to quickly move towards the second object of interest through an action known as a saccade. As soon as this saccade begins, a signal is sent from the eye back to the brain. This signal, known as an efferent cortical trigger or efference copy, communicates to the brain that a saccade is about to begin.[7] [8] During saccades, the sensitivity of visual information collected by the eyes is greatly reduced and, thus, any image collected during this saccade is very blurry.[4] In order to prevent the visual cortex from processing blurred sensory information, visual information collected by the eyes during a saccade is suppressed through a process known as saccadic masking. This is also the same mechanism used to prevent the experience of motion blur.[9]
  4. Following the completion of the saccade, the eyes now focus on the second object of interest. As soon as the saccade concludes, another efferent cortical trigger is sent from the eyes back to the brain. This signal communicates to the brain that the saccade has concluded. Prompted by this signal, the visual cortex once again resumes processing visual information.[8] For the student, his eyes have now reached the clock and his brain’s visual cortex begins to process information from his eyes. However, this second efferent trigger also communicates to the brain that a period of time has been missing from perception. To fill this gap in perception, visual information is processed in a manner known as neural antedating or backdating.[9] In this visual processing, the gap in perception is “filled in” with information gathered after the saccade. For the student, the gap of time that occurred during the saccade is substituted with the processed image of the clock. Thus, immediately following the saccade, the second hand of the clock appears to stop in place before moving.[10]
A timeline of the sensation and perception of chronostasis within the context of a student in a classroom. This depicts the steps described above.

In studying chronostasis and its underlying causes, there is potential bias in the experimental setting. In many experiments, participants are asked to perform some sort of task corresponding to sensory stimuli. This could cause the participants to anticipate stimuli, thus leading to bias. Also, many mechanisms involved in chronostasis are complex and difficult to measure. It is difficult for experimenters to observe the perceptive experiences of participants without "being inside their mind."[1]

Modulating factors[edit]

Because of its complexity, there are various characteristics of stimuli and physiological actions that can alter the way one experiences chronostasis.

Saccadic amplitude[edit]

The further the eyes travel, the more severe the overestimation.[9] For instance, if you were to glance up at the clock, greater angular movement required for your eyes to focus on the clock would result in a more dramatic perception of chronostasis.

Attention redirection[edit]

When shifting focus from one object to a second object, the saccadic movement of one’s eyes is also accompanied by a conscious shift of attention. In the context of the stopped clock illusion, not only do your eyes move, but you also shift your attention to the clock. This led researchers to question whether the movement of the eyes or simply the shift of the observer’s attention towards the second stimulus initiated saccadic masking. Experiments in which subjects diverted only their attention without moving their eyes revealed that the redirection of attention alone was not enough to initiate chronostasis.[9]

Spatial continuity[edit]

Following investigation, one may wonder if chronostasis still occurs if the saccadic target is moving. In other words, would you still experience chronostasis if the clock you looked at were moving? Through experimentation, researchers found that the occurrence of chronostasis in the presence of a moving stimulus was dependent on the awareness of the subject. If the subject were aware that the saccadic target was moving, they would not experience chronostasis. Conversely, if the subject were not aware of the saccadic target’s movement, they did experience chronostasis. This is likely because antedating does not occur in the case of a consciously moving target. If, after the saccade, the eye correctly falls on the target, the brain assumes this target has been at this location throughout the saccade. If the target changes position during the saccade, the interruption of spatial continuity makes the target appear novel.[9]

Stimulus properties[edit]

Properties of stimuli themselves have shown to have significant effects on the occurrence of chronostasis. In particular, the frequency and pattern of stimuli affect the observer’s perception of chronostasis. In regards to frequency, the occurrence of many, similar events can exaggerate duration overestimation and makes the effects of chronostasis more severe. In regards to repetition, repetitive stimuli appear to be of shorter subjective duration than novel stimuli.[10] This is due to neural suppression within the cortex. Investigation using various imaging techniques has shown that repetitive firing of the same cortical neurons cause them to be suppressed over time.[11] This occurs as a form of neural adaptation.

Sensory domain[edit]

The occurrence of chronostasis has also been extended from the visual domain into the auditory domain. Chronostasis and duration overestimation has shown to exist when observing auditory stimuli as well. For example, the temporal duration of silent gaps perceived between ringing tones of a telephone can be altered by repeatedly shifting the ringing location from one ear to other. This leads researchers to suggest that a common timing mechanism is used for temporal perception of both visual and auditory stimuli.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Hodinott-Hill, Iona; Thilo, Kai V.; Cowey, Alan; Walsh, Vincent (15). "Auditory Chronostasis: Hanging on the Telephone". Current Biology. 12 (20): 1779–1781. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(02)01219-8. PMID 12401174.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Check date values in: |date=, |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  2. ^ "The mystery of the stopped clock illusion". BBC - Future - Health -. 2012-08-27. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  3. ^ Goldstein, E. Bruce (2010). Sensation and perception (8th ed. ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-0495601494. 
  4. ^ a b Knoll, Jonas (30). "Spatio-temporal representations during eye movements and their neuronal correlates" (Dissertation).  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Check date values in: |date=, |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  5. ^ Kolb, Bryan (2008). Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology (6th ed. ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 350–375. ISBN 0716795868.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  6. ^ Ibbotson, M. R. (2008). "Saccadic Modulation of Neural Responses: Possible Roles in Saccadic Suppression, Enhancement, and Time Compression". Journal of Neuroscience. 28 (43): 10952–10960. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3950-08.2008.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  7. ^ Bridgeman, Bruce (1995). "A review of the role of efference copy in sensory and oculomotor control systems". Annals of Biomedical Engineering. 23 (4): 409–422. 
  8. ^ a b Yarrow, Kielan (2004). "Consistent Chronostasis Effects across Saccade Categories Imply a Subcortical Efferent Trigger". Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 16 (5): 839–847. doi:10.1162/089892904970780.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  9. ^ a b c d e Thilo, Kai V. (19). "Vision: When The Clock Appears to Stop". Current Biology. 12: R135–R137.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Check date values in: |date=, |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  10. ^ a b Eagleman, David M (2008). "Human time perception and its illusions". Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 18 (2): 131–136. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2008.06.002.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  11. ^ Verhoef, B.-E. (15). "Stimulus Similarity-Contingent Neural Adaptation Can Be Time and Cortical Area Dependent". Journal of Neuroscience. 28 (42): 10631–10640. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3333-08.2008.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help); Check date values in: |date=, |year= / |date= mismatch (help)

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