Ideomotor effects of pitch on continuation tapping

Paolo Ammirante, William F. Thompson, Frank A. Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The ideomotor principle predicts that perception will modulate action where overlap exists between perceptual and motor representations of action. This effect is demonstrated with auditory stimuli. Previous perceptual evidence suggests that pitch contour and pitch distance in tone sequences may elicit tonal motion effects consistent with listeners' implicit awareness of the lawful dynamics of locomotive bodies. To examine modulating effects of perception on action, participants in a continuation tapping task produced a steady tempo. Auditory tones were triggered by each tap. Pitch contour randomly and persistently varied within trials. Pitch distance between successive tones varied between trials. Although participants were instructed to ignore them, tones systematically affected finger dynamics and timing. Where pitch contour implied positive acceleration, the following tap and the intertap interval (ITI) that it completed were faster. Where pitch contour implied negative acceleration, the following tap and the ITI that it completed were slower. Tempo was faster with greater pitch distance. Musical training did not predict the magnitude of these effects. There were no generalized effects on timing variability. Pitch contour findings demonstrate how tonal motion may elicit the spontaneous production of accents found in expressive music performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-393
Number of pages13
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


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