Did I see your hand moving? The effect of movement-related information on the Corsi block tapping task

Psychol Res. 2018 May;82(3):459-467. doi: 10.1007/s00426-016-0834-6. Epub 2016 Dec 21.


The Corsi Block Tapping Task is a widespread test used to assess spatial working memory. Previous research hypothesized that the discrepancy found in some cases between the traditional and the digital (touchscreen) version of the Corsi block tapping task may be due to a direct motor resonance between the experimenter's and the participant's hand movements. However, we hypothesize that this discrepancy might be due to extra movement-related information included in the traditional version, lacking in the digital one. We investigated the effects of such task-irrelevant information using eCorsi, a touchscreen version of the task. In Experiment 1, we manipulate timing in sequence presentation, creating three conditions. In the Congruent condition, the inter-stimulus intervals reflected the physical distance in which the stimuli were spatially placed: The longer the spatial distance, the longer the temporal interval. In the Incongruent condition the timing changed randomly. Finally, in the Isochronous condition every stimulus appeared after a fixed interval, independently from its spatial position. The results showed a performance enhancement in the Congruent condition, suggesting an incidental spatio-temporal binding. In Experiment 2, we added straight lines between each location in the sequences: In the Trajectories condition participants saw trajectories from one spatial position to the other during sequence presentation, while a condition without such trajectories served as control. Results showed better performances in the Trajectories condition. We suggest that the timing and trajectories information play a significant role in the discrepancies found between the traditional and the touchscreen version of the Corsi Block Tapping Task, without the necessity of explanations involving direct motor resonance (e.g. seeing an actual hand moving) as a causal factor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult