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Psychol Res. 2000;63(2):106-28.

Compensation for subliminal timing perturbations in perceptual-motor synchronization.

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Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT 06511-6695, USA.


It is sometimes assumed that limits of temporal discrimination established in psychophysical tasks constrain the timing information available for the control of action. Results from the five perceptual-motor synchronization experiments presented here argue against this assumption. Experiment 1 demonstrates that subliminal (0.8-2%) local changes in interval duration in an otherwise isochronous auditory sequence are rapidly compensated for in the timing of synchronized finger tapping. If this compensation is based on perception of the highly variable synchronization error (SE) rather than of the local change in stimulus period, then it could be based solely on SEs that exceed the temporal order threshold. However, that hypothesis is ruled out by additional analyses of Exp. 1 and the results of Exp. 2, a combined synchronization and temporal order judgment task. Experiments 3-5 further show that three factors that affect the detectability of local deviations from stimulus isochrony do not inhibit effective compensation for such deviations in synchronized tapping. Experiment 5, a combined synchronization and detection task, shows directly that compensation for timing perturbations does not depend on explicit detection. Overall, the results suggest that the automatic processes involved in the temporal control of action have access to more accurate timing information than do the conscious decision processes of auditory temporal judgment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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