The Role of Causality in Temporal Binding: Evidence for an Intentional Boost


Temporal binding refers to the subjective contraction in time between actions and their consequences. Since it was reported in 2002 the effect has generated much interest, although a consensus regarding the mechanisms behind it remains elusive. While multiple theoretical accounts have been proposed, a key point of contention remains whether the effect is the result of the perception of intentionality or causality. We deployed a new apparatus to compare intentional to mechanical causation. Thirty participants reported the interval between two events in self-causal, mechanical-causal and non-causal conditions. The results of a Bayesian analysis pointed to smaller temporal estimates in the self-causal condition compared with the mechanical-causal condition, in addition to smaller estimates in the mechanical-causal condition compared with the non-causal condition. The evidence presented here suggests that causality alone may be sufficient for temporal binding to occur, but that this effect is boosted by the presence of intentional action.

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