UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Timing everyday tasks and events Fergusson, Janel


Many of the tasks we complete every day require us to attend to the passing of time or to use time information in some way. Everyday tasks frequently require us to use time information in a strategic, deliberate, and explicit way, such as when we wish to steep a cup of tea for 3 minutes or must leave to meet a colleague in 5 minutes. Much of the previous research on timing has used very short duration tasks, in the range of seconds. Several models have been developed to account for timing in short duration tasks, but it is not known which model(s) best fit timing of everyday intervals. This dissertation research was designed to determine whether the AGM or memory storage models can account for timing in the range of everyday intervals. Experiment 1 investigated the underlying pattern of estimates in the range of 1-5 minutes. Participants produced underestimates for all intervals. Experiments 2 and 3 used a framing manipulation to investigate the role of memory chunking in timing everyday durations. Participants who were instructed to focus on the present task produced intervals that were longer than participants who were instructed to focus on a future task, consistent with the idea that a present frame serves as a better organizing structure for the interval and results in fewer chunks. According to memory storage models, the number of items in memory is compared to a stored value in reference memory to determine how much time has passed. When stimuli are organized more cohesively, resulting in fewer chunks, it takes a longer time to accumulate the target number of chunks. Experiment 4 used feedback and an attentional manipulation to investigate the role of reference memory and attention to timing. Participants produced more accurate intervals following feedback, consistent with the idea that reference memory for everyday intervals is inaccurate. Attention had no effect on estimate duration, which is inconsistent with the AGM. Taken together, the results from these experiments suggest that memory storage models are a better fit for timing in the range of everyday intervals.

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