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We investigated people's ability to decide how much time to spend on the task at hand. To make such decisions well, one must take into account, among other things, the cost of failing and how one's task performance changes as a function of time. We first investigated timing decisions when the underlying task was perceptual. Decisions were highly efficient and suggested that people can make good use of perceptual knowledge and abstract reward information. Previous studies have found that perceptual decisions are generally optimal, but that cognitive decisions are generally suboptimal--a perception-cognition gap. Does a similar gap exist for timing decisions? We compared timing decisions for a perceptual task with timing decisions for more cognitive tasks. Performance was highly similar across the tasks, which suggests that knowledge can be acquired, and used to make timing decisions, in an equally efficient way regardless of whether that knowledge is derived through perceptual or cognitive experience.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Sci

Publication Date





589 - 597


Cognition, Decision Making, Discrimination (Psychology), Humans, Motion Perception, Punishment, Reward, Task Performance and Analysis, Time Factors, Time Perception