A Universal Time Constant Operating in Human Short-term Behaviour Repetitions


Forschungsstelle für Humanethologie in der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, D-8131 Seewiesen.


In repetitive movement patterns of everyday behaviour in humans a time constant of about 3 s could be shown to prevail. This time constant was found in four independent cultures (Europeans, Trobriand Islanders, Yanomami Indians and Kalahari Bushmen) and structures behaviour into units. As Pöppel (1978, 1985) has already found such a time constant in recited verse and optical illusions, it seems that we are dealing here with a universal central nervous mechanism structuring time. Its function could be seen in creating a subjective present and in facilitating communication and synchronisation between interactants.

Only 15% of patterns in the investigated behaviour repetitions do not obey the 3-s time span. These are stereotyped behaviour patterns of longer duration which seem to have a special function.