Project Funding

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Time

Time is something of which we seemingly have direct experience, yet, as St. Augustine famously noted, as soon as we try to analyse it, it slips through our grasp. In this RFP we seek research proposals that will enable us to tighten our grip. We are interested in proposals that seek to break new ground by adopting a genuinely interdisciplinary approach, bringing the best insights from diverse fields of enquiry together in a fruitful way that will inform our understanding of the nature of time.

The aim of the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Time funding round, generously funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, is to encourage researchers to investigate the nature of time from a variety of ‘non-standard’ angles with a view to advancing the field in ways not otherwise possible. Proposals that address the nature of time by integrating several fields (including non-scientific fields) will be given preferential treatment.

2013 Successful Grant Applications

Thank you to all that took the time to submit an application for the 2013 round of Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Time Grants. We are excited and happy to announce the following successful projects.

  • uat Balci, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey

Contextual Regulation of Time Perception

Interval timing is a fundamental faculty of everyday cognition, serving an indispensible function shaped by the evolutionary environments. Yet the stimuli by which interval timing has been studied have traditionally lacked the contextual diversity inherent in nature. This study aims to lead to a better understanding of the operational principles of our timing ability by investigating the calibration of time perception by contextual signal- to-noise ratios, events that violate natural laws, and inferred pace.

  • Van Rijn and Billeter, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Time Flies: Interval Timing Mechanisms in Drosophila Melanogaster

Can the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster perceive time in the seconds to minutes range? Do flies use similar mechanisms for interval timing as primates and other vertebrates? We propose a new experimental paradigm to study Drosophila’s temporal capacities. We will use the powerful Drosophila genetics to test whether a fly-model of Parkinson’s disease has analog effects on temporal behavior as in humans, and to test current theories about the mechanisms of interval timing.

  • John Cass and Erik Van Der Berg, The University of Western Sydney/The University of Sydney

Evolution of human time perception

We present a new phenomenon demonstrating that perceived timing of visual events may be profoundly impaired by the mere presence of irrelevant events elsewhere in the visual field. Observers’ temporal resolution was indexed by just noticeable differences (JNDs) for judgments of simultaneity and temporal order. When target events were presented in isolation or in static distractor environments temporal resolution was very precise (JNDs ~ 20 ms). When surrounded by dynamic distractor events, however, performance deteriorated by more than a factor of four. This contextual effect we refer to as Remote Temporal Camouflage (RTC) possesses a unique spatial distribution conforming to neither the predictions of attentional capture by transient events, nor by stimulus dependencies associated with other contextual phenomena such as crowding, masking or motion-induced blindness. These dependencies combined with the absence of RTC under audio-visual target conditions suggest that it results from corruption of long-range visual motion mechanisms.

  • Christoph Hoerl, University of Warwick Coventry

Time, Tense, and the Psychology of Relief

The emotion of relief is at the centre of a key argument in the metaphysics of time. Time must objectively pass, Arthur Prior argues, or else the relief felt when a painful experience has ended is not intelligible. Yet do we in fact know enough about the nature of relief, its role and cognitive pre-requisites to assess this argument? This workshop will initiate a new dialogue between philosophers and psychologists on relief and its relation to time.

  • Eve A. Isham, University of California, Davis

Solving the problem of temporal awareness may help solve consciousness

Temporal awareness has served as an important means to the understanding of intentionality, free will and consciousness. Our study investigates how the moment of intent is represented and whether this temporal representation varies across different philosophical beliefs.

  • Vincent A Billock and Lynne Olzak, College of Optometry, Ohio State Univserity / Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford

Perceptual causality violations: Using time delay adaptation in a virtual reality environment to create an illusion of precognition of an avatar’s horrific fate

Using perceptual time delay adaptation in flight simulators we’ve induced illusory causality violations: the pilot perceives aircraft maneuvers before he moves the controls. Recently, body ownership illusions – which are quantified by a strong physiological reaction to the avatar’s harm – have been studied using avatars in virtual reality environments. We predict that combining these two illusions will create illusory premonitions of death. The study of such causality illusions should illuminate poorly understood aspects of time perception.

  • Daniele Oriti, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) Golm, Germany

Emergent time: Quantum Gravity, Cosmology and Philosophy

We propose an interdisciplinary workshop focusing on the emergence of time from fundamental non-temporal structures, in quantum gravity. It will be held at the Albert Einstein Institute (Potsdam) in the Fall 2014. The goal is to explore the realization of this idea in different quantum gravity approaches, also as a new description of the early universe, and its cosmological consequences, and to discuss the many philosophical (both epistemological and ontological) issues it raises.

  • Meghan Sullivan, Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

Discounting Time

Discounting Time investigates the connections between two prevalent forms of time bias:
distant future discounting and past discounting. Main project questions include: How are prudential/moral and past/future discounting related? Does temporal discounting reflect objective temporal di!erences? And how do recent findings on the psychology of time-bias bear on the rational status of discounting? I o!er answers to these questions drawing from recent work in psychology, decision-theory, metaphysics and ethics.

  • Jonathan Tallant, Department of Philosophy University of Nottingham

The Art of Time

Drawing on research in Art-History and the Philosophy of time, researchers at the University of Nottingham are looking for new ways to develop our best philosophy of time and our understanding of the ways in which time is represented in visual art. The project will help synthesise work from these two disciplines and will help to open up a new and exciting field of research.

  • Karim P.Y Thebault, Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, LMU Munich

On the Origin of Temporal Order: From Cosmology to Neuroscience

Time in physics has two key aspects: metric structure and ordering structure. There are strong formal reasons to believe only the latter is fundamental. But how should we understand it’s origin and status? One option comes from cosmology and involves understanding time ordering in terms of contingencies that have contrived to produce our human perspective upon the universe. Another, lies with neuroscience and relates to recent research on the temporal ordering of sensory information.

  • Mariam G. Thalos, Department of Philosophy University of Utah

Towards a formal decision theory with a future

  • Devin Blair Terhune, Marie Curie Research Fellow, University of Oxford

The neurochemistry of time perception

This project aims to combine neurochemistry and psychophysics in order to elucidate the neurochemical basis of time perception. We propose to use magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure neurochemicals in cerebellum and prefrontal cortex and examine how they relate to the perception of duration. This study will expand our knowledge of the neural basis of time perception and may inform applied research in patient populations with timing deficits.

  • Christina van Dyke and Brad Skow, MIT / Calvin College

From Here to Eternity: Temporal Experience and Transformation

This project brings leading specialists together to discuss temporal experience in light of questions and insights from psychology, physics, theology, and HPS. It certainly seems to us that time passes; does contemporary physics show this to be an illusion? What psychological processes determine the “subjective rate of passage”?How might immortality differ from our current temporal framework? The project also addresses how transformative experiences can help us better understand both these questions and their answers.

  • Mark Yates, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne

What causes distortions in the perceived onset times of actions and their effects?

Voluntary movement is accompanied by a sense of agency, and this sense is modulated by subtle but ill-understood temporal illusions, which bind together our actions and their consequences in time. This project explores whether the illusions rely on general causal inference or on factors intrinsic to voluntary action. This will throw light on our experience of philosophically troublesome notions of willed action, and how agency and autonomy may be disturbed in some psychiatric disorders.

  • Christian Wuthrich (PI), Nick Huggett and David Rideout, Department Philosophy and Science Studies, University of California, San Diego.

Time In Quantum Gravity

We propose an interdisciplinary conference on the nature of time in quantum gravity, to be held in San Diego in September 2014, with particular involvement of junior scholars in philosophy and physics. Quantum gravity promises profound insights into the nature of time as it must arbitrate between the incompatible conception of time in quantum physics and in relativistic theories. A focused conference will aid the emerging community engaged in these foundational questions.

  • Nikk Effingahm, Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham

Probability and Time Travel

If time travel is possible, what are the chances of it taking place? How likely to occur are causal loops – such as your travelling back into the past to give your earlier self the blueprints for a time machine? Is there any chance of your killing your own grandfather and thereby preventing your own existence? Drawing from both physics and philosophy, the project will mount two inter-disciplinary workshops on these issues: one in Sydney and one in Birmingham.