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Effects of Accuracy Feedback on Fractal Characteristics of Time Estimation

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Kuznetsov, N. A., & Wallot, S. (2011). Effects of Accuracy Feedback on Fractal Characteristics of Time Estimation. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 5, 62. doi:10.3389/fnint.2011.00062.

The current experiment investigated the effect of visual accuracy feedback on the structure of variability of time interval estimates in the continuation tapping paradigm. Participants were asked to repeatedly estimate a 1-s interval for a prolonged period of time by tapping their index finger. In some conditions, participants received accuracy feedback after every estimate, whereas in other conditions, no feedback was given. Also, the likelihood of receiving visual feedback was manipulated by adjusting the tolerance band around the 1-s target interval so that feedback was displayed only if the temporal estimate deviated from the target interval by more than 50, 100, or 200 ms respectively. We analyzed the structure of variability of the inter-tap intervals with fractal and multifractal methods that allow for a quantification of complex long-range correlation patterns in the timing performance. Our results indicate that feedback changes the long-range correlation structure of time estimates: Increased amounts of feedback lead to a decrease in fractal long-range correlations, as well to a decrease in the magnitude of local fluctuations in the performance. The multifractal characteristics of the time estimates were not impacted by the presence of accuracy feedback. Nevertheless, most of the data sets show significant multifractal signatures. We interpret these findings as showing that feedback acts to constrain and possibly reorganize timing performance. Implications for mechanistic and complex systems-based theories of timing behavior are discussed.