Crossing the hands confuses the clocks

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

2012 New England Sequencing and Timing


The Cognition and Action Lab at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Amherst, MA

Publication Date



The bimanual advantage refers to the finding that tapping with two fingers on opposite hands exhibits reduced timing variability, as compared with tapping with only one finger. Two leading theories propose that the bimanual advantage results from the addition of either sensory (i.e., enhanced feedback) or cognitive (i.e., multiple timekeeper) processes involved in timing. Given that crossing the arms impairs perception of tactile stimuli and modulates cortical activation following tactile stimulation, we investigated the role of crossing the arms in the bimanual advantage. Participants tapped unimanually or bimanually with their arms crossed or uncrossed on a tabletop or in the air. With arms crossed, we expected increased interval timing variance. Similarly, for air tapping, we expected reduced bimanual advantage, due to reduced sensory feedback. A significant bimanual advantage was observed for the uncrossed, but not the crossed posture in tabletop tapping. Furthermore, removing tactile feedback from taps eliminated the bimanual advantage for both postures. Together, these findings suggest that crossing the arms likely impairs integration of internal (i.e., effector-specific) and external (i.e., environment-specific) information and that this multisensory integration is crucial to reducing timing variability during repetitive coordinated bimanual tasks.

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