When two events have a causal relationship (i.e. one causes the other), the interval between them seems shorter than that between two events that do not have a causal relationship. It is thought that this is a general distortion in our perception of time, whereby time appears to speed up in the interval between the two events that have a causal relationship. My aim is to uncover the mechanism behind this effect and to place the phenomenon more directly into the time perception literature.
The purpose of causal binding is thought be as a way of making it easier to learn the causal relationships between events that we encounter by making them appear to be bound closer together in time. It is entirely plausible, therefore, that during a causal relationship we devote more attentional resources to the environment (to facilitate the learning processes) leaving fewer attentional resources to focus on the passage of time. It is a general finding that the more attention that is paid to the passage of time, the slower time is perceived to pass and the less attention that is paid to the passage of time, the faster time is perceived to pass. Thus, time would appear to pass more quickly during a causal interval than during a non-causal interval due to more attention being paid to the environment and less to the passage of time.
In my current research, I aim to directly assess attentional processes during a causal binding task to ascertain if there is a difference in attentional processes when events have a causal relationship than when they do not. I will be using behavioural measures as well as pupillometry.
Selected Recent Publications
Trent, S., Dennehy, A., Richardson, H., Ojarikre, O.A., Burgoyne, P.S., Humby, T. & Davies, W. (2012) Steroid sulfatase-deficient mice exhibit endophenotypes relevant to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(2), 221-229.