Allometric scaling in temporal integration

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2021-05

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Abstract

A relatively well-defined upper limit of 2±1 seconds appears in human cognition as a proximity constraint for temporal integration. This interval functions as a timescale and is an important determinant of grouping in the temporal domain that allows for emergent relationships between otherwise discrete stimuli. We propose activation decay of a working memory system as a potential explanation for the appearance of a similar proximity constraint across domains, including expressions of ordinary human behaviors, such as language, music, and learning. Seeing as natural selection fashioned animals such that many aspects of anatomy and physiology scale allometrically with body size, we propose a theory that activation lifetimes are parameterized in a similar manner. In this work, we measure proximity constraints in people of different heights, using paradigms involving gestalt emergence, speech structure, working memory spans, and temporal integration. The evidence presented suggests that temporal horizons for the feeling of rhythm obey a similar law as basal metabolic rate in humans and that precision allometries in drumming accuracy and apparent motion can be used to infer the presence of an underlying allometry in the proximity constraint. We extend this work to natural timescales expressed through speech production and find that pause durations in both fluid and disfluent speech scale allometrically with height. Additional examples suggest that allometry is a general feature of both explicit and implicit working memory, and we make an unexpected discovery that reaction times themselves also appear to be parameterized by body size. Taken together, these findings provide ample evidence for the existence of allometric size scaling relationships in human temporality.

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