January 16, 2004

The Three Second Rule

Pöppel's Universal

We take life 3 seconds at a time. Human experience and behaviour is characterized by temporal segmentation. Successive segments or "time windows" have a duration of approx. 3 seconds. Examples: Intentional movements are embedded within 3 s (like a handshake); the anticipation of a precise movement like hitting a golf ball does not go beyond 3 s; if we reproduce the duration of a stimulus, we can do so accurately up to 3 s but not beyond; if we look at ambiguous figures (like a vase vs. two faces) or if we listen to ambiguous phoneme sequences (like Cu-Ba-Cu-Ba-.., either hearing Cuba or Bacu) automatically after approx. 3 s the percept switches to the alternative; the working platform of our short term memory lasts only 3 s (being interrupted after 3 s most of the information is gone); spontaneous speech in all languages is temporally segmented, each segment lasting up to 3 s; this temporal segmentation of speech shows up again in poetry, as a verse of a poem is embedded within 3 s (Shakespeare: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day"); musical motives preferably last 3 s (remember Beethoven's Fifth Symphony); decisions are made within 3 s (like zapping between TV channels); and there are more examples. Thus, the brain provides a temporal stage that last approx. 3 s, which is used in perception, cognition, movement control, memory, speech, or music.

-- The World Question Center

Posted by Vanderleun at January 16, 2004 8:16 AM | TrackBack
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