GAMIT - A Fading-Gaussian Activation Model of Interval-Timing: Unifying Prospective and Retrospective Time Estimation


  • Robert M. French Laboratory for Research on Learning and Development (LEAD-CNRS) Université de Bourgogne, Dijon
  • Caspar Addyman Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, London
  • Denis Mareschal Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, London
  • Elizabeth Thomas Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), Université de Bourgogne, Dijon


Timing and time perception, attention, memory, computational models


Two recent findings constitute a serious challenge for all existing models of interval timing. First, Hass and Hermann (2012) have shown that only variance-based processes will lead to the scalar growth of error that is characteristic of human time judgments. Secondly, a major meta-review of over one hundred studies of participants’ judgments of interval duration (Block et al., 2010) reveals a striking interaction between the way in which temporal judgments are queried (i.e., retrospectively or prospectively) and cognitive load. For retrospective time judgments, estimates under high cognitive load are longer than under low cognitive load. For prospective judgments, the reverse pattern holds, with increased cognitive load leading to shorter estimates. We describe GAMIT, a Gaussian spreading activation model of interval timing, in which the decay and sampling rate of an activation trace are differentially affected by cognitive load. The model unifies prospective and retrospective time estimation, normally considered separately, by relating them to the same underlying process. The scalar property of time estimation arises naturally from the model dynamics and the model shows the appropriate interaction between mode of query and cognitive load.