Reports of Elapsed Time: Bounding and Rounding Processes in Estimation

Janellen Huttenlocher*, Larry V. Hedges, Norman M. Bradburn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations

Abstract

The present article concerns the way temporal information is represented in memory and the processes used in estimating when events occurred. In particular, we examine the sources of bias in reports of the time that has elapsed since a target event occurred. We find that reported times are less than actual times. Evidence is presented that this forward bias is not a result of misrepresentation of elapsed time in memory, but rather reflects two factors that arise in constructing reports from inexact information in memory. One factor is subjects' imposition of an upper boundary on reports, reflecting their notion of what would constitute reasonable answers to the question asked. This boundary truncates the distribution of reports, producing forward bias. The other factor is subjects' use of rounded (prototypic) values; these values, although stated in days, actually represent larger temporal categories (e.g., 14, 21, 30, 60 days ago). The distance between rounded values increases as the temporal categories become larger. Because of decreasing precision in memory and this increase in the distance between rounded values, a broader range of values is rounded down than up, thus producing forward bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-213
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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