Exploring complexity matching and asynchrony dynamics in synchronized and syncopated task performances

Charles A. Coey*, Rachel W. Kallen, Anthony Chemero, Michael J. Richardson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


When two people synchronize their rhythmic behaviors (e.g., finger tapping; walking) they match one another not only at a local scale of beat-to-beat intervals, but also at a global scale of the complex (fractal) patterns of variation in their interval series. This “complexity matching” had been demonstrated in a variety of timing behaviors, but the current study was designed to address two important gaps in previous research. First, very little was known about complexity matching outside of synchronization tasks. This was important because different modes are associated with differences in the strength of coordination and the fractal scaling of the task performance. Second, very little was known about the dynamics of the asynchrony series. This was important because asynchrony is a variable directly quantifying the coordination between the two timing behaviors and the task goal. So, the current study explored complexity matching in both synchronized and syncopated finger tapping tasks, and included analyses of the fractal scaling of the asynchrony series. Participants completed an interpersonal finger tapping task, in both synchronization and syncopation conditions. The magnitude of variation and the exact power law scaling of the tapping intervals were manipulated by having one participant tap in time with a metronome. Complexity matching was most stable when there was sufficient variation in the task behavior and when a persistent scaling dynamic was presented. There were, however, several interesting differences between the two coordination modes, in terms of the heterogeneity of the complexity matching effect and the scaling of the asynchronies. These findings raised a number of important points concerning how to approach and understand the interaction of inherently complex systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-104
Number of pages24
JournalHuman Movement Science
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • complexity matching
  • fractal scaling
  • syncopation
  • interpersonal coordination
  • finger tapping


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