Hazard versus history: Temporal preparation is driven by past experience

Sander A. Los*, Wouter Kruijne, Martijn Meeter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The hazard function describes the conditional probability that an event will occur at a given moment, given that it has not yet occurred. In warned reaction time tasks, it is a classical finding that the response to a target stimulus is faster as its hazard is higher, which has led to the widespread belief that hazard somehow drives temporal preparation. Alternatively, recent cognitive theories propose that temporal preparation is driven by memory traces of earlier timing experiences. To distinguish between these views, we presented different groups of participants with different distributions of foreperiods between temporal cues and target stimuli. Three experiments revealed clear transfer effects of this manipulation in a test phase where all participants received, after explicit instruction, the same uniform distribution. These findings demonstrate that temporal preparation is driven by past experience, not by current hazard.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-88
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Hazard function
  • Long-term memory
  • Temporal preparation


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