The role of temporal prediction abilities in interpersonal sensorimotor synchronization

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Jun;211(3-4):505-15. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2616-0. Epub 2011 Mar 19.


Musical ensemble performance is a form of joint action that requires highly precise yet flexible interpersonal action coordination. To maintain synchrony during expressive passages that contain tempo variations, musicians presumably anticipate the sounds that will be produced by their co-performers. Our previous studies revealed that individuals differ in their ability to predict upcoming event timing when finger tapping in synchrony with tempo-changing pacing signals (i.e., the degree to which inter-tap intervals match vs. lag behind inter-onset intervals in the pacing signal varies between individuals). The current study examines the influence of these individual differences on synchronization performance in a dyadic tapping task. In addition, the stability of individual prediction tendencies across time is tested. Individuals with high or low prediction tendencies were invited to participate in two experimental sessions. In both sessions, participants were asked (1) to tap alone with a tempo-changing pacing signal and (2) to tap synchronously in dyads comprising individuals with similar or different prediction tendencies. Results indicated that individual differences in prediction tendencies were stable over several months and played a significant role in dyadic synchronization. Dyads composed of two high-predicting individuals tapped with higher accuracy and less variability than low-predicting dyads, while mixed dyads were intermediate. Prediction tendencies explained variance in dyadic synchronization performance over and above individual synchronization ability. These findings suggest that individual differences in temporal prediction ability may potentially mediate the interaction of cognitive, motor, and social processes underlying musical joint action.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Music
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Time Perception*