(ORDO NEWS) — Psychologists have discovered a new visual illusion that gives an idea of the nature of time perception. New study shows vision reconstructs time
A new study provides evidence that our assumptions about causation shape our perception of the temporal order in which we perceive events occurring. The results of the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, shed light on the influence of causality on the perception of time.
“Originally, we were interested in reverse causality and whether people can, under certain circumstances, perceive causes after their effects, such as when they pray or hope for a favorable outcome of something that has already happened,” explained study author Christos Behlivanidis, associate professor at University College London.
“After doing some experiments, we quickly realized that the expectation of temporal direction (that causes precede their effects) is so strong that even if we change the order, people will insist that causes happened first. This led us to become interested in the nature of time perception and how how it interacts with causality (which also carries temporal information).”
In three experiments involving a total of 607 people, participants observed a domino-like collision involving three colored squares, which were labeled “A”, “B” and “C”.
In the expected order of collisions, A collides with B, who then collides with C. However, in the version seen by participants, “A moves first, but at the moment of its contact with B, C starts moving, and B only starts moving 150 ms later him.” In other words, C starts moving before B collides with it.
In the experiments, participants were asked to indicate the time at which B and C begin to move. Despite re-viewing the collisions, the researchers found that participants tended to report that B started moving before C, rather than in the actual order of motion (A, C, B).
“We have a strong assumption that we know, through direct perception, the order in which events occur around us. The order of events in the world is the order of our perceptions. The visual signal of glass shutters follows the signal of glass hitting the ground, and this is perceived as irrefutable proof that the events really happened that way,” Behlivanidis said in an interview with PsyPost.
“Our research points in the opposite direction, namely that it is causal beliefs or expectations that tell us in what order events occur. even if, by some crazy coincidence, the events happen in a different order.” In other words, it seems that, especially on short timescales, it is causality that tells us about time.”
The researchers stressed that there is still much to be learned about how assumptions about causality affect our perception.
“There are two main areas for further work in light of the causal reordering effect,” Behlivanidis explained. “First, we need to study the perception of temporal order more broadly. It may turn out that, as philosopher Rick Grush argues, when events happen quickly, we never perceive, but always infer their order based on our expectations and predictions.”
“Equally intriguing is the effect evidence for the study of causal perception, the idea that we perceive causes in the same way that we perceive color or depth,” he continued.
“In the reordering effect, one of the main features used in causal perception, temporal priority, is violated, but the sequence of events still seems to the participants to be causal. This contradicts 60 years of literature and suggests that causal perception, or, perhaps match detection is perhaps much more widespread and flexible than is currently assumed.”
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