Temporal order judgment (TOJ) measures the ability to correctly perceive the order of consecutive stimuli presented rapidly. Our previous research suggested that the major predictor of auditory dichotic TOJ threshold, a paradigm that requires the identification of the order of two tones, each of which is presented to a different ear, is the time separating the onset of the first tone from the onset of the second tone (stimulus-onset-asynchrony, SOA). Data supporting this finding, however, was based on a young adult population and a tone duration range of 10-40 msec. The current study aimed to evaluate the generalizability of the earlier finding by manipulating the experimental model in two different ways: a) extending the tone duration range to include shorter stimulus durations (3-8 msec; Experiment 1) and b) repeating the identical testing procedure on a different population with temporal processing deficits, i.e., older adults (Experiment 2). We hypothesized that the SOA would predict the TOJ threshold regardless of tone duration and participant age. Experiment 1 included 226 young adults divided into eight groups (each group receiving a different tone duration) with duration ranging from 3-40 msec. Experiment 2 included 98 participants aged 60-75 years, divided into five groups by tone duration (10-40 msec). The results of both experiments confirmed the hypothesis, that the SOA required for performing dichotic TOJ was constant regardless of stimulus duration, for both age groups: about 66.5 msec for the young adults and 33 msec longer (100 msec) for the older adults. This finding suggests that dichotic TOJ threshold is controlled by a general mechanism that changes quantitatively with age. Clinically, this has significance because quantitative changes can be more easily remedied than qualitative changes. Theoretically, our findings show that, with dichotic TOJ, tone duration affects threshold by providing more time between the onsets of the consecutive stimuli to the two ears. The findings also imply that a temporal processing deficit, at least among older adults, does not elicit the use of a different mechanism in order to judge temporal order.
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