The complexities of keeping the beat: dynamical structure in the nested behaviors of finger tapping

Charles A. Coey, Justin Hassebrock, Heidi Kloos, Michael J. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research on fractal scaling in simple human behaviors (e.g., reaction time tasks) has demonstrated that different aspects of the performance (e.g., key presses and key releases) all reveal pink noise signals but yet are uncorrelated with one another in time. These studies have suggested that the independence of these signals might be due to the functional independence of these different sub-actions, given the task constraints. The current experiments investigated whether under a different set of constraints (e.g., finger tapping with and without a metronome) nested sub-actions might show interrelated dynamics, and whether manipulations affecting the fractal scaling of one also might have consequences for the scaling of others. Experiment 1 revealed that the inter-tap intervals and key-press durations of participants’ tapping behavior were dynamically related to one another and that the fractal scaling of both changed in the switch from self-paced to metronome-paced tapping. Consistent with past research, the inter-tap intervals changed toward an antipersistent, blue noise pattern of variation, but the key-press durations became even more persistent. Experiment 2 revealed that this pattern of results could be altered by asking participants to attempt to hold the key down for the entire length of the metronome tone. Specifically, the key-press duration of participants in the “hold” group became less persistent in the switch across task conditions. Collectively, the results of these experiments suggest that fractal scaling reliably reflects the functional relationships of the processes underlying task performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1423-1439
Number of pages17
JournalAttention, Perception and Psychophysics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • fractal scaling
  • long-range correlation
  • finger tapping


Dive into the research topics of 'The complexities of keeping the beat: dynamical structure in the nested behaviors of finger tapping'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this