The rotating spot method of timing subjective events.

Research paper by Susan S Pockett, Arden A Miller

Indexed on: 20 Oct '06Published on: 20 Oct '06Published in: Consciousness and Cognition


The rotating spot method of timing subjective events involves the subject's watching a rotating spot on a computer and reporting the position of the spot at the instant when the subjective event of interest occurs. We conducted an experiment to investigate factors that may impact on the results produced by this method, using the subject's perception of when they made a simple finger movement as the subjective event to be timed. Seven aspects of the rotating spot method were investigated, using a factorial experiment. Four of these aspects altered the physical characteristics of the computer generated spot or clock face and the remaining three altered the instructions given to the participant. We found compelling evidence that one factor, whether the subject was instructed to report the instant when the finger movement was initiated or the instant when it was completed, resulted in a systematic shift in the response. Evidence that three other factors affect the observed variability in the response was also found. In addition, we observed that there are substantial systematic differences in the responses made by different subjects. We discuss the implications of our findings and make recommendations about the optimal way of conducting future experiments using the rotating spot method. Our overall conclusion is that our results strongly validate the rotating spot method of timing at least the studied variety of subjective event.