Timelines of past events: Reconstructive retrieval of temporal patterns
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Most naturalistic events are temporally and structurally complex in that they comprise a number of elements and that each element may have different onset and offset times within the event. This study examined temporal information processing of complex patterns of partially overlapping stimulus events by using 2 tasks of temporal processing. Specifically, participants observed a pantomime in which 5 actors appeared on the scene for different periods of time. At test, they estimated the duration each actor was present or reconstructed the temporal pattern of the pantomime by drawing a timeline for each actor. Participants made large errors in the time estimation task, but they provided relatively accurate responses by using the timeline as a retrieval support. These findings suggest that temporal processing of complex asynchronous events is a challenging cognitive task, but that reliance on visuo-spatial retrieval support, possibly in combination with other temporal heuristics, may produce functional approximations of complex temporal patterns.
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