Contraction bias in temporal estimation

Noam Tal-Perry, Shlomit Yuval-Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When asked to compare the perceptual features of two serially presented objects, participants are often biased to over- or under-estimate the difference in magnitude between the stimuli. Overestimation occurs consistently when a) the two stimuli are relatively small in magnitude and the first stimulus is larger in magnitude than the second; or b) the two stimuli are relatively large in magnitude and the first stimulus is smaller in magnitude than the second; underestimation consistently occurs in the complementary cases. This systematic perceptual bias, known as the contraction bias, was demonstrated for a multitude of perceptual features and in various modalities. Here, we tested whether estimation of time-duration is affected by the contraction bias. In each trial of three experiments (n = 20 each), participants compared the duration of two visually presented stimuli. Findings revealed over- and under-estimation effects as predicted by the contraction bias. Here, we discuss this asymmetry and describe how these findings can be explained via a Bayesian inference framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105234
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Bayesian inference
  • Contraction bias
  • Duration estimation
  • Interval comparison task
  • Timing

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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