Temporal discrimination as a function of marker duration.
Evaluated the effect of marker duration on temporal discrimination with empty auditory intervals bounded by markers ranging from 3-300 ms or presented as a gap within a continious tone in a series of three experiments. As a measure of performance, difference thresholds in relation to a base duration of 50 ms were computed for 88 college students. Temporal discrimination was significantly better with markers ranging from 3-150 ms than with markers ranging from 225-300 ms or under the gap condition. However, within each range of marker duration (3-150 ms, 225-300 ms, or gap) performance did not differ significantly. A fourth experiment provided evidence that the effect of marker duration cannot be explained in terms of marker-induced masking. A good approximiation of the relationship between marker duration and temporal discrimination performance in the present experiments is a smooth step function, which can account for 99.3 percent of the variance of mean discrimination performance. Findings point to the conclusion that two different mechanisms are used in the processing of temporal information, depending on the duration of the auditory markers. The tradeoff point for the hypothetical shift from one timing mechanism to the other may be found at a marker duration of approximately 200 ms.
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