Interaction between intention and environmental constraints on the fractal dynamics of human performance

Auriel Washburn, Charles A. Coey, Veronica Romero, MaryLauren Malone, Michael J. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The current study investigated whether the influence of available task constraints on power-law scaling might be moderated by a participant’s task intention. Participants performed a simple rhythmic movement task with the intention of controlling either movement period or amplitude, either with or without an experimental stimulus designed to constrain period. In the absence of the stimulus, differences in intention did not produce any changes in power-law scaling. When the stimulus was present, however, a shift toward more random fluctuations occurred in the corresponding task dimension, regardless of participants’ intentions. More importantly, participants’ intentions interacted with available task constraints to produce an even greater shift toward random variation when the task dimension constrained by the stimulus was also the dimension the participant intended to control. Together, the results suggest that intentions serve to more tightly constrain behavior to existing environmental constraints, evidenced by changes in the fractal scaling of task performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-350
Number of pages8
JournalCognitive Processing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • intention
  • volition
  • fractals
  • 1/f noise
  • motor control


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