Evidence for multiple strategies in off-beat tapping with anisochronous stimuli

Psychol Res. 2014 Sep;78(5):721-35. doi: 10.1007/s00426-013-0513-9. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


There is a large body of evidence relating to the ways that people tap in time with sounds, and perform error correction in order to do this. However, off-beat tapping is less well investigated than on-beat tapping. The current study involves coordinating with a stimulus sequence with underlying isochrony and systematic deviations from this isochrony that increase or decrease in magnitude to look at people's capacity to error-correct when performing off-beat synchronisation with a set of sounds. Participants were instructed to 'tap between the tones' but 'try to maintain regularity'. While analysis using typical methods suggested a form of error correction was occurring, a series of more complex analyses demonstrated that participants' performance during each trial can be classified according to one of four different strategies: maintaining a regular pulse, error correction, phase resetting, and negative error correction. While maintaining a regular pulse was the preferred strategy in conditions with increasingly isochronous stimuli, the majority of trials are best explained by other strategies, suggesting that participants were generally influenced by variability in the stimuli.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult