Interval Timing as an Emergent Learning Property

Valentin Dragoi, J. E.R. Staddon, Richard G. Palmer, Catalin V. Buhusi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Interval timing in operant conditioning is the learned covariation of a temporal dependent measure such as wait time with a temporal independent variable such as fixed-interval duration. The dominant theories of interval timing all incorporate an explicit internal clock, or "pacemaker," despite its lack of independent evidence. The authors propose an alternative, pacemaker-free view that demonstrates that temporal discrimination can be explained by using only 2 assumptions: (a) variation and selection of responses through competition between reinforced behavior and all other, elicited, behaviors and (b) modulation of the strength of response competition by the memory for recent reinforcement. The model departs radically from existing timing models: It shows that temporal learning can emerge from a simple dynamic process that lacks a periodic time reference such as a pacemaker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-144
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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