Only Time Can Tell: On the Topology of Mental Space and Time

Critical Inquiry 7 (3):557-576 (1981)
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An obvious result of including time rules into specifications of world patterns is the rather persuasive representation of rhythm. Rhythm as a property of world patterns has received relatively little attention recently, although it has had a long and distinguished history in psychology. Nonetheless, its recent neglect means that all too often we have failed to consider the implications of time patterning of stimuli that we as psychologists routinely present to individuals in our attempts to study human performance in many tasks, tasks which often do involve explicitly musical stimuli. Often in our psychological studies we present as stimuli words, lights, colored forms, or other items in a fashion that is regularly spaced in time. It's just common sense, and besides it's easier. And other current paradigms have not encouraged experimental questions about the temporal patterning of stimuli. But consider what this pacing means. We are rhythmically programming events. Is it possible that this temporal regularity forms attentional waves that buoy up our studies and so make it likely that we can study what we are most interested in? And, with our own attention as psychologists fixed steadily upon the topic of our immediate concern , is it possible that we overlook the fact that underlying our effects is a rhythmic regularity that is crucial to having the subject's attention on the task at hand? Mari Riess Jones is professor of psychology at Ohio State University and has written numerous articles on the human response to patterns in time



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