Psychological Research

, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 252–270 | Cite as

Rhythmic movement is attracted more strongly to auditory than to visual rhythms

  • Bruno H. ReppEmail author
  • Amandine Penel
Original Article


People often move in synchrony with auditory rhythms (e.g., music), whereas synchronization of movement with purely visual rhythms is rare. In two experiments, this apparent attraction of movement to auditory rhythms was investigated by requiring participants to tap their index finger in synchrony with an isochronous auditory (tone) or visual (flashing light) target sequence while a distractor sequence was presented in the other modality at one of various phase relationships. The obtained asynchronies and their variability showed that auditory distractors strongly attracted participants' taps, whereas visual distractors had much weaker effects, if any. This asymmetry held regardless of the spatial congruence or relative salience of the stimuli in the two modalities. When different irregular timing patterns were imposed on target and distractor sequences, participants' taps tended to track the timing pattern of auditory distractor sequences when they were approximately in phase with visual target sequences, but not the reverse. These results confirm that rhythmic movement is more strongly attracted to auditory than to visual rhythms. To the extent that this is an innate proclivity, it may have been an important factor in the evolution of music.


Auditory Modality Auditory Target Distractor Effect Visual Distractors Auditory Distractors 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by NIH grant MH-51230 awarded to the first author, and by a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory post-doctoral fellowship awarded to the second author. Thanks are due to Helen Sayward and Susan Holleran for help with data analysis, and to Alex Aksentijevic, Peter Keller, and Ani Patel for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Haskins LaboratoriesNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Cold Spring Harbor LaboratoryCold Spring HarborUSA

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