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Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 19;6:19439. doi: 10.1038/srep19439.

Cue properties change timing strategies in group movement synchronisation.

Author information

School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AL, UK.
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT, UK.
Institute of Digital Healthcare, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Music Department, Bar Ilan University, Ramar Gan, Israel.


To maintain synchrony in group activities, each individual within the group must continuously correct their movements to remain in time with the temporal cues available. Cues might originate from one or more members of the group. Current research suggests that when synchronising movements, individuals optimise their performance in terms of minimising variability of timing errors (asynchronies) between external cues and their own movements. However, the cost of this is an increase in the timing variability of their own movements. Here we investigate whether an individual's timing strategy changes according to the task, in a group scenario. To investigate this, we employed a novel paradigm that positioned six individuals to form two chains with common origin and termination on the circumference of a circle. We found that participants with access to timing cues from only one other member used a strategy to minimise their asynchrony variance. In contrast, the participant at the common termination of the two chains, who was required to integrate timing cues from two members, used a strategy that minimised movement variability. We conclude that humans are able to flexibly switch timekeeping strategies to maintain task demands and thus optimise the temporal performance of their movements.

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