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Inner and Outer Horizons of Time Experience

  • Jiří Wackermann (a1)


Human experience of temporal durations exhibits a multi-regional structure, with more or less distinct boundaries, or horizons, on the scale of physical duration. The inner horizons are imposed by perceptual thresholds for simultaneity (≈ 3 ms) and temporal order (≈ 30 ms), and are determined by the dynamical properties of the neural substrate integrating sensory information. Related to the inner horizon of experienced time are perceptual or cognitive “moments.” Comparative data on autokinetic times suggest that these moments may be relatively invariant (≈ 102 ms) across a wide range of species. Extension of the “sensible present” (≈ 3 s) defines an intermediate horizon, beyond which the generic experience of duration develops. The domain of immediate duration experience is delimited by the ultimate outer horizon at about ≈102 s, as evidenced by analysis of duration reproduction experiments (reproducibility horizon), probably determined by relaxation times of “neural accumulators.” Beyond these phenomenal horizons, time is merely cognitively (re)constructed, not actually experienced or “perceived,” a fact that is frequently ignored by contemporary time perception research. The nyocentric organization of time experience shows an interesting analogy with the egocentric organization of space, suggesting that structures of subjective space and time are derived from active motion as a common experiential basis.

La experiencia humana de las duraciones temporales exhibe una estructura multi-regional, con fronteras, u horizontes, más o menos definidos, en la escala de la duración física. Los umbrales perceptivos de la simultaneidad (≈3 ms) y el orden temporal (≈30 ms) imponen los horizontes internos y los determinan las propiedades dinámicas del substrato neuronal que integra la información sensorial. Los “momentos” preceptuales o cognitivos se relacionan con el horizonte interno del tiempo experimentado. Los datos comparativos sobre tiempos autoquinéticos sugieren que estos momentos pueden ser relativamente invariantes (≈102 ms) a través de una amplia variedad de especies. La extensión del “presente sensible” (≈3 s) define un horizonte intermedio, a partir del cual se desarrolla la experiencia genérica de la duración. El dominio de experiencia de duración inmediata es delimitado por el último horizonte externo en aproximadamente ≈102 s, como demuestra el análisis de los experimentos de la reproducción de la duración (la reproducibilidad del horizonte), probablemente determinado por los tiempos de relajación de los “acumuladores neuronales.” Más allá de estos horizontes fenomenológicos, el tiempo meramente se (re)construye cognitivamente, no es experimentado ni “percibido”, un hecho que a menudo es ignorado por la investigación contemporánea de la percepción del tiempo. La organización niocéntrica de la experiencia del tiempo muestra una interesante analogía con la organización egocéntrica del espacio, sugiriendo que las estructuras de espacio y tiempo subjetivos se derivan del movimiento activo como una base experimental común.


Corresponding author

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jiri Wackermann. Abtl. Empirische und Analytische Psychophysik, Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene, Wilhelmstrasse 3a, D-79098 Freiburg i.Br. (Germany). Phone: +49 761 2072171. Fax: +49 761 2072179. E-mail:


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Inner and Outer Horizons of Time Experience

  • Jiří Wackermann (a1)


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