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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Duration Judgments for Verbal Stimuli: Effects of Emotion, Attention, and Memory Encoding

  • Author(s): Johnson, Laura Wendy
  • Advisor(s): MacKay, Donald
  • et al.

In six experiments, this dissertation investigated duration judgments for verbal stimuli, testing predictions of information-processing models of time perception. Experiments 1, 2, and 3 explored the effects of low-valence, high-arousal taboo words on the perception of time. The results revealed that durations of taboo words were underestimated compared to neutral words in prospective timing tasks, including the temporal bisection task in Experiment 1 and the ordinality comparison procedure in Experiment 2. In both of these experiments, memory was better for taboo than neutral words in surprise free recall tasks. These results supported the predictions of the attentional gate model, which suggests that duration judgments are shorter when attention is directed away from time. In Experiments 1 and 2, emotion-linked memory encoding processes associated with taboo words may have been prioritized over the timing tasks, directing attention away from time and reducing duration judgments, as well as improving memory for taboo words. In Experiment 3, durations of taboo words were overestimated compared to neutral words in a retrospective duration reproduction task. This supported the predictions of the memory storage model, which suggests that retrospective duration judgments are longer for intervals in which greater quantities of non-temporal information are encoded. Experiments 4, 5, and 6 examined the effects of words displayed in novel combinations of fonts, sizes, and colors on the perception of time. Results from prospective temporal bisection tasks revealed that durations of words displayed in novel text styles were underestimated compared to words displayed in standard text styles. Similar results were found in Experiment 4, in which half of the words were displayed in novel text styles, and in Experiment 5, in which only one twelfth of the words were displayed in novel text styles. The similar effects of taboo words and novel text styles on duration judgments suggest that these effects are driven by attentional mechanisms. In Experiment 6, durations of novel shapes were judged to be longer than durations of novel words in the oddball task, providing tentative support for the hypothesis that words affect timing judgments differently than simple visual stimuli.

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