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Child Development Research
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 907601, 8 pages
Research Article

Representation of Multiple Durations in Children and Adults

Department of Psychology, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden

Received 16 August 2011; Revised 14 November 2011; Accepted 18 December 2011

Academic Editor: Jeffrey W. Fagen

Copyright © 2011 Maria Grazia Carelli and Helen Forman. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Keeping track of durations of multiple event attributes with different onset and offset times is a challenging task for both children and adults. In this study, children between 5 and 15 years and young adults observed a puppet show in which three puppets appeared on the scene during overlapping intervals of 30 s to 90 s. At test, participants completed a conventional time estimation task and a timeline task in which they reconstructed the temporal pattern by drawing a timeline for each puppet. For all age groups, the timeline task produced more accurate duration judgments than the time estimation task. Preschoolers’ time estimation was at chance level, but their timeline performance was surprisingly good and age differences were eliminated in some task conditions. These findings suggest that the timeline procedure provides an efficient retrieval support for complex temporal events and that even preschool-aged children are able to represent multiple asynchronous durations, possibly by relying on relational event knowledge in combination with visuospatial retrieval support.