Synchronous vs. non-synchronous imitation: using dance to explore interpersonal coordination during observational learning

Cassandra Crone*, Lillian Rigoli, Gaurav Patil, Sarah Pini, John Sutton, Rachel W. Kallen, Michael Richardson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)
    24 Downloads (Pure)


    Observational learning can enhance the acquisition and performance quality of complex motor skills. While an extensive body of research has focused on the benefits of synchronous (i.e., concurrent physical practice) and non-synchronous (i.e., delayed physical practice) observational learning strategies, the question remains as to whether these approaches differentially influence performance outcomes. Accordingly, we investigate the differential outcomes of synchronous and non-synchronous observational training contexts using a novel dance sequence. Using multidimensional cross-recurrence quantification analysis, movement time-series were recorded for novice dancers who either synchronised with (n = 22) or observed and then imitated (n = 20) an expert dancer. Participants performed a 16-count choreographed dance sequence for 20 trials assisted by the expert, followed by one final, unassisted performance trial. Although end-state performance did not significantly differ between synchronous and non-synchronous learners, a significant decline in performance quality from imitation to independent replication was shown for synchronous learners. A non-significant positive trend in performance accuracy was shown for non-synchronous learners. For all participants, better imitative performance across training trials led to better end-state performance, but only for the accuracy (and not timing) of movement reproduction. Collectively, the results suggest that synchronous learners came to rely on a real-time mapping process between visual input from the expert and their own visual and proprioceptive intrinsic feedback, to the detriment of learning. Thus, the act of synchronising alone does not ensure an appropriate training context for advanced sequence learning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102776
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalHuman Movement Science
    Early online date24 Feb 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


    • observational learning
    • synchronous imitation
    • non-synchronous imitation
    • interpersonal coordination
    • dance
    • perception-action coupling


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