Priming the mental time line

Maria Grazia Di Bono, Marco Casarotti, Konstantinos Priftis, Lucia Gava, Carlo Umiltà, Marco Zorzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Growing experimental evidence suggests that temporal events are represented on a mental time line, spatially oriented from left to right. Support for the spatial representation of time comes mostly from studies that have used spatially organized responses. Moreover, many of these studies did not avoid possible confounds attributable to target stimuli that simultaneously convey both spatial and temporal dimensions. Here we show that task-irrelevant, lateralized visuospatial primes affect auditory duration judgments. Responses to short durations were faster when the auditory target was paired with left- than with right-sided primes, whereas responses to long durations were faster when paired with right- than with left-sided primes. Thus, when the representations of physical space and time are concurrently activated, physical space may influence time even when a lateralized, spatially encoded response is not required by the task. The time-space interaction reported here cannot be ascribed to any Spatial-Temporal Association of Response Codes effect. It supports the hypothesis that the representation of time is spatially organized, with short durations represented on the left space and longer ones on the right.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-842
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Priming
  • Space-time interactions
  • Temporal duration
  • Time representation
  • Visuospatial attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)


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