By Amy Vega - April 30, 2012

A bit of research: Timing as an essential part of social communication

Timing in the brain is critical for communicating effectively or participating in group activities (i.e., sports, music, play). Some individuals wait until just the right moment to act, while others have a tendency to “jump the gun.” This may manifest in a penalty for a false start if playing football or social difficulty if a person constantly interrupts others when they are speaking. Miyake et al (2004) describe the neurological underpinnings of the tendency to make “anticipatory” timing errors like these in a paper published in Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis. Once we’ve learned a task or situation, we tend to respond as if on automatic pilot (without consciously thinking about it). But sometimes, something changes ever so slightly in the situation, and we must adapt and recalibrate our response. How well we do this depends upon our brain’s ability to perceive time…even in small increments like milliseconds. During the initial phases of Interactive Metronome (IM) training individuals with these timing-related problems often clap or move too fast (milliseconds ahead of the beat instead of on it), but soon become more in sync with the beat and with their peers.

Miyake, Y., Onishi, Y., and Pöppel, E. (2004). Two types of anticipation in synchronization tapping. Acta
 Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, 415-426.

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