Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 8, pp 2363–2375 | Cite as

Bimanual joint action: correlated timing or “bimanual” movements accomplished by two people

  • Melanie Y. LamEmail author
  • Jarrod Blinch
  • Elizabeth M. Connors
  • Jon B. Doan
  • Claudia L. R. Gonzalez
Research Article


A crew of two rowing together in perfect synchrony is an example of a task that requires each performer to maintain meticulous timing when coordinating their movements with the other. At the individual level, temporal coordination of the limbs has been observed in bimanual pointing movements even when made to targets of different distance. Timing of the arms is not independent; rather there is a natural temporal coupling. The aim of this experiment was to investigate whether the temporal characteristics of pointing movements can be observed under joint conditions. Sixteen pairs of participants made short and long, unimanual and bimanual pointing movements. In the unimanual and bimanual solo conditions, participants made the movements alone. In the joint condition, each participant contributed one arm to the joint “bimanual” movements. Absolute temporal coupling at movement initiation and termination was measured by the differences in reaction time and total response time. Relative temporal coupling at movement initiation and termination was measured by correlating reaction time and total response time of the left and right limbs. Pointing movements had synchronous movement termination in the bimanual solo conditions and asynchronous termination in the unimanual solo and bimanual joint conditions. The initiation and termination of the arms were not correlated in the unimanual solo condition (initiation r = 0.01, termination r = 0.03). Small-to-medium correlations (r = 0.19, r = 0.24) were observed in the bimanual joint condition, and they were larger than the unimanual solo condition (p = 0.022, p = 0.063). As expected, there were large correlations in the bimanual solo conditions (r = 0.91, r = 0.81). Our findings suggest that absolute temporal coupling does not occur between individuals, but there is evidence for relative temporal coupling in the bimanual joint condition.


Joint action Bimanual coordination Temporal coupling 



The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada supported this research with a Tier II Canada Research Chair and a Discovery Grant awarded to Claudia Gonzalez.


The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada supported this research with a Tier II Canada Research Chair and a Discovery Grant (NSERC Fund #14367) awarded to Claudia Gonzalez.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human KineticsSt. Francis Xavier UniversityAntigonishCanada
  2. 2.Department of Kinesiology and Physical EducationUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  3. 3.Department of Kinesiology and Sport ManagementTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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