Rhythms that speed you up

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2011 Feb;37(1):236-44. doi: 10.1037/a0019956.


This study investigates whether a rhythm can orient attention to specific moments enhancing people's reaction times (RT). We used a modified version of the temporal orienting paradigm in which an auditory isochronous rhythm was presented prior to an auditory single target. The rhythm could have a fast pace (450 ms Inter-Onset-Interval or IOI) or a slow pace (950 ms IOI). The target was presented after a variable foreperiod of either 200, 400, 900, 1400, or 1600 ms following the offset of the rhythm. In Experiment 1, the rhythmic pace validly predicted the moment of target appearance; i.e., the target appeared after a foreperiod that matched the rhythmic pace on 60% of the trials. The results showed an effect on RT performance of the fast rhythmic pace compared to the slow rhythmic pace at the 200 and 400 ms foreperiods, while no effects were found at the long foreperiods, probably due to a foreperiod effect. In Experiment 2, non-predictive rhythmic paces did not modulate the foreperiod effect. The addition of temporal uncertainty by including catch trials in Experiment 3 clearly unveiled the effect of non-predictive rhythmic pace at short and long foreperiods. Taken together, the results of the experiments reported here highlight the ability of rhythms to orient temporal attention enhancing participants' response speed not only at short intervals but also at long time intervals, suggesting the involvement of a flexible mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time*
  • Thiouracil / analogs & derivatives
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception*
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult


  • Aniline Compounds
  • Thiouracil
  • 6-anilino-2-thiouracil