My research is concerned with how we perceive causality. Specifically, I am researching temporal binding and phenomenal causality. Temporal binding is an effect wherein the subjective time interval between a causal event and its consequence is shortened. Phenomenal causality occurs in response to certain stimuli, which suggest a causal relationship between two objects, in the absence of a real causal event. To date, very little work has been done on temporal binding in phenomenal causality. These have a lot of potential in telling us more about how both temporal binding and phenomenal causality work, and the processes behind causal perception.
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My research is concerned with how we perceived causality. Specifically, what we can learn about this from the Temporal Binding effect (also known as causal binding/intentional binding) and phenomenal causality.
Temporal binding is the compression in the subjective time interval between two events perceived to be causally related (i.e. cause and consequence). It was first identified by Haggard et al (2002) as intentional binding, as binding was found to occur between an intentional action and its consequence (a key press followed by a tone). It has since been used to study the processes responsible for the perception of intentionality and causality, usually with the assumption that intentionality is necessary for temporal binding to occur. The importance of intentionality has been disputed, however (e.g. Buehner & Humphreys, 2009). As most intentional binding studies use key presses as the initial event, causality and intentionality tend to be confounded.
Phenomenal causality occurs at a perceptual level in the absence of a real causal event (e.g. in response to audio-visual stimuli). Typical stimuli for the study of these judgements (e.g. Michotte, 1963) are animations of causal events, for example one disc colliding with another and stopping, followed by the other launching in the same direction. Such stimuli induce a strong perception of causality, even without prior experience of the stimuli. Using such stimuli in binding studies has been difficult, however, as any noticeable delay between the two objects’ collision and the second disc’s movement weakens the perception of causality (Michotte, 1963).
This problem can be overcome, however, if causal influence is perceived to be transmitted from object A to object B across a spatial and temporal gap. Recent research (in preparation) has found that if the spatial separation between two “colliding” objects is filled with a row of coloured blocks which change colour in sequence from the block impacted by disc A to the location of disc B, which proceeds to launch, the perception of causality is not negated by the separation between the two.
My research aims to use these cues to study whether binding extends to perceptual causality, e.g. collision events. How temporal binding manifests in these stimuli could tell us a lot about the processes behind it – for example whether it also happens at the perceptual level. Being able to use phenomenal causality stimuli could also allow us to carefully control perceived causality and find out more about its role in temporal binding.
Cardiff University, School of Psychology Studentship
2009-2013: BSc (Hons) Psychology with Professional Placement, Cardiff University
2011-2012: Placement student - Ty Catrin (Pastoral Healthcare)
2014-2015: Research Officer - the Office for National Statistics