Academic journal article Psychomusicology

On the Sensory Cues That Permit Control of Movements Accompanying Periodic Stimuli (1958)

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

On the Sensory Cues That Permit Control of Movements Accompanying Periodic Stimuli (1958)

Article excerpt

Translated from the French1,2 by Bruno H. Repp

Periodic stimulation induces voluntary and involuntary periodic movements. We have in mind here the soldier who adjusts his step to [the beat of]3 a military march or the music lover who accom- panies, with [taps of] the foot or the hand, the musical tunes that the radio or a record player delivers to him, often without realizing it. We have previously studied these induced movements in rela- tion to the nature of the music and to the posture and attitude of the subject (Fraisse, Oleron, & Paillard, 1953; Paillard, Oleron, & Fraisse, 1953). However, several observations made in the course of this research have led us to address new issues. The induced movement is, in effect, synchronous with the stimulus; it does not follow the stimulus but accompanies it, and its [motor] command must therefore be anticipated. This necessity means that motor induction cannot occur unless the stimulation obeys a law of periodicity that somehow permits [the subject] to predict the moment at which the [next] stimulus will occur.4 However, this anticipated [motor] command cannot lead to adequate synchroni- zation unless some feedback5 process permits the subject to con- trol-without awareness, incidentally-the simultaneity of the movement and the stimulus. In the course of our experiments, we were rightly struck by the fact that motor induction occurs pref- erentially in limbs that have "light support," that is to say, in limbs whose induced movement could easily be translated into a tap of the foot or the hand on a surface. The proof of this is that when the arm hangs alongside the body, motor induction is uncommon; but when induction does occur, the subject "searches" in some way for a place where the hand can tap, for example, his thigh or the leg of the chair.

The problem was then to ascertain the nature of the stimulus or stimuli coming from the movement, whose simultaneity with the sound stimuli could control the [time of] occurrence of the induced movements. Analysis [of the problem] allowed us to predict that three kinds of stimuli could emanate from the movement: Kines- thetic cues obviously, but also tactile cues (from touching a sur- face) or auditory cues (sound of the tap on a surface). Kinesthetic cues are necessarily always present, [whereas] tactile and auditory cues can be either present or absent. An observation that we have made on many occasions is that tactile or auditory cues are, if not necessary, at least useful. Our aim thus has been to investigate the respective roles of the different kinds of cues [obtained] from movement.

Our method consisted of comparing spatially free induced movements with induced tapping movements, and movements that produce a sound, with or without a tap, with movements that do not produce any sound. We have, moreover, tried to reveal sys- tematically the relative role of auditory cues by using an apparatus for creating delays that enabled us to dissociate the moment at which the sound of the response was triggered from the moment at which it was perceived.


The principle [of the method] was simple.6 The subject heard a sound that was repeated indefinitely with an [interonset] interval of 580 ms.7 These sounds were recorded by a polygraph. The task was to accompany [each] stimulus with a downward8 movement of the wrist.

The subject was seated comfortably, with the forearm resting on a support and the wrist free. He held in his hand a baton on top of which was mounted a piece of Bristol board in the shape of a flag (see Figure 1). Moreover, at the far end of the baton, there was a Plexiglas eyelet through which a very light metal rod slid in and out, which controlled the rotation of a potentiometer. This poten- tiometer was connected to the pen of a recorder, which thus permitted us to record the form of the movement graphically and yielded a very precise measure of the moments at which the movement stopped in the downward and upward directions. …

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