# How far into the future can humans accurately predict a periodic event?

I know the question is ambiguous, so let me elaborate: imagine that you're given a task (e.g., read a text) while subjected to a series of auditory stimuli, e.g., a train of noise bursts of the same length separated by the same amount of time as the length of an individual burst (for example, 30 s of noise, 30 s of silence, etc.).
Would you be able to predict/anticipate (I'm not sure of the correct term here) an upcoming onset/offset of the noise and modify your behavior so that this is reflected in the task you were given? Predicting this seems to be easy if the auditory stimuli are separated a fraction of a second and even perhaps seconds. But, if one keeps separating them (e.g., 30 s as in the previous example), how far can the auditory stimuli be separated so that a subject can still anticipate their onset/offset?

• Have you performed any prior research? Adding backgrounds can help to focus the question. Biggest issue here is how you define 'on time'? You have placed it between quotation marks, so I think your hunch was that it has some special relevance here and indeed it has, as the question hinges on its definition. If you wait a second between beeps, but you consider 200 ms to be an acceptable error of margin, people can likely follow the rhythm just fine, considering the motor response latency is about 100 to 200 ms (didn't research this mind you, just trying to convey my reasoning here)... – AliceD Feb 8 at 8:39
• If you apply that same criterion to a large temporal gap of, say,10 minutes, no one would make it I'm sure. However, 200 ms is 20% of a second, so the same relative margin of error would mean 10 +/- 2 minutes. Well, that might be very well possible simply by starting to count from 0 to 600 (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi.....). Or would you reckon counting to be cheating? See where I'm getting at? What are the rules to your thought experiment? – AliceD Feb 8 at 8:39
• Thanks AliceD. I haven't performed prior research in this topic and the few papers I've found in the web deal with rather short periods. I have an experiment where people do a task while listening to bursts of noise (30 s long, separated 30 seconds). Would the participants be able to somehow anticipate an upcoming onset/offset of the noise and possibly modify their behavior (influencing the task at hand) according to such anticipation? – julovi Feb 8 at 9:03
• It would really help if you explain the conditions you are interested in in your post. Please edit the question and add these relevant elements, i.e., stimulus type (auditory, noise), stimulus length, pause duration, loudness etc etc – AliceD Feb 8 at 9:30
• Hi AliceD, I added more details in the text of the question, I forgot about loudness but let's assume that the noise is presented at 64 dB or to a comfortable level – julovi Feb 8 at 21:45