Synchronization in repetitive smooth movement requires perceptible events

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Acta Psychologica







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Accurate timing performance during auditory–motor synchronization has been well documented for finger tapping tasks. It is believed that information pertaining to an event in movement production aids in detecting and correcting for errors between movement cycle completion and the metronome tone. Tasks with minimal event-related information exhibit more variable synchronization and less rapid error correction. Recent work from our laboratory has indicated that a task purportedly lacking an event structure (circle drawing) did not exhibit accurate synchronization or error correction (Studenka & Zelaznik, in press). In the present paper we report on two experiments examining synchronization in tapping and circle drawing tasks. In Experiment 1, error correction processes of an event-timed tapping timing task and an emergently timed circle drawing timing task were examined. Rapid and complete error correction was seen for the tapping, but not for the circle drawing task. In Experiment 2, a perceptual event was added to delineate a cycle in circle drawing, and the perceptual event of table contact was removed from the tapping task. The inclusion of an event produced a marked improvement in synchronization error correction for circle drawing, and the removal of tactile feedback (taking away an event) slightly reduced the error correction response of tapping. Furthermore, the task kinematics of circle drawing remained smooth providing evidence that event structure can be kinematic or perceptual in nature. Thus, synchronization and error correction, characteristic of event timing (Ivry, Spencer, Zelaznik, & Diedrichsen, 2002; Repp, 2005), depends upon the presence of a distinguishable source of sensory information at the timing goal.

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