How long does the present last?
We live in time, between the past and the future, in an eternal present... But how long does this “present” last? Among others, the researchers from the Center of Mind/Brain Sciences of the University of Trento (CiMeC) asked themselves this question and tried to understand, data on hand, how human beings perceive the succession of events that set the time during the day, thus building the “sense of time”.
“It is well known – David Melcher of CiMeC Active Perception Lab explained – that our brain can integrate different incoming data in a single “percept” in a few hundreds milliseconds. This percept is the basis of what we call our subjective present that is estimated to be about 2-3 second long, corresponding to our perception of the present moment, of now. Our study provides the first evidence that this 2–3 second integration window, already observed in simpler tasks, extends to more complex visual sequences, such as movies, more consistent with our experience of the subjective present”.
This study, published in the journal Plos One, was carried out under the project “Construction of Perceptual Space-Time” funded by a 5-year grant of the European Research Council of near a million euros.