I recently attended a great symposium for time researchers in Tokyo. It was a fantastic to have a chance to exchange thoughts about new theories of psychological time and to see some very elegant experiments. The conference website is here: Time in Tokyo Symposium.

For the Symposium, I prepared a theoretical discussion of the specious present, considering how we may explore neurophenomenology with reference to recent neuroscientic findings. The slides for the talk are available here:

The Time Train: A New Arrival of the Specious Present

You can also see an animated example of the ideas from the talk here. I call it “The Time Train”

moving mouse left-to-right over the animation moves time forward; moving up-down moves the time persepctive point; press d to increase the size of the boxes; i shows some object-events

ps. if you can’t see the animation, try enabling third-party site data

The model is described in more detail in the slides, essentially it takes the idea of a train of perceptual moments (which are around 0.5s to 3s in length) and shows how temporal awareness moves forward in time throughout these moments.


We can define three variables in the model:

  • T - time moving forward
  • α - time perspective
  • σ - temporal extent (specious present)

The model provoked some interesting debate, particularly around the question of whether psychological time is quantised or not. This is a central question in perceptual time theory, which I’ve been reluctant to take a position on. Certainly this model would suggest that time is quantised. So do we believe the model? Despite having formulated this approach, I must admit to being not wholly convinced myself. Nevertheless, I believe this sort of modelling approach can be useful to provide testable hypotheses and, if nothing else, to clarify what we mean when we refer to concepts like the “specious present”.

If you’re interested how the above interactive animation is produced, it’s using a wonderful language called processing.js. If you’d like to see the code used to create the model, please feel free to leave me a message by using the contact link on this website.