Development of bimanual coordination in a rhythmic clapping task

Date of Completion

January 1993


Psychology, Experimental




Due to the large number of behaviors with rhythmical foundations, understanding the underlying coordination patterns of rhythmic movements as well as the developmental course of the behaviors raise important issues. The research reported here is designed to investigate the harnessing of a dynamical regime in skilled (adult) and novice (children) performance of a rhythmic movement. This work extends understanding of the development of coordination dynamics by investigating a model system appropriate to be studied developmentally viz., clapping. Results reveal that a coupled oscillator regime is appropriate for modeling adult clapping movements. This dynamical regime is harnessed in a variety of clapping styles--(a) unconstrained, normal applauding in which both the wrist joint and elbow joint are free to oscillate; (b) stereotyped clapping in which the limbs are oriented horizontally with the oscillation restricted to the elbow joint; (c) stereotyped clapping in which the limbs are oriented vertically with the oscillation restricted to the elbow joint; (d) clapping in which cutaneous information is eliminated (the hands approach midline but do not contact); (e) clapping both with and without visual information; and (f) metronome-paced and self-paced clapping. The harnessing of the oscillatory regime under such a variety of circumstances points to the robustness of the rhythmical bases of clapping as well as the generality of the principles of coordination dynamics. Results further reveal that (a) children are drawn to the same dynamical solution that adults are; (b) the dynamical regime is not fully harnessed until about five years; (c) the coupled oscillator regime is harnessed later developmentally in slow metronome-paced clapping than fast metronome-paced clapping; and (d) interlimb coordination becomes smoother, less variable, and more consistent as a consequence of the coupling between the limbs increasing developmentally. ^