Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8(800), 1–14p. (2014) DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00800

Dancers entrain more effectively than non-dancers to another actor's movements

A. Washburn, M. DeMarco, S. de Vries, K. Ariyabuddhiphongs, R. C. Schmidt, M. J. Richardson, M. A. Riley

For many everyday sensorimotor tasks, trained dancers have been found to exhibit distinct and sometimes superior (more stable or robust) patterns of behavior compared to non-dancers. Past research has demonstrated that experts in fields requiring specialized physical training and behavioral control exhibit superior interpersonal coordination capabilities for expertise-related tasks. To date, however, no published studies have compared dancers' abilities to coordinate their movements with the movements of another individual – i.e., during a so-called visual-motor interpersonal coordination task. The current study was designed to investigate whether trained dancers would be better able to coordinate with a partner performing short sequences of dance-like movements than non-dancers. Movement time series were recorded for individual dancers and non-dancers asked to synchronize with a confederate during three different movement sequences characterized by distinct dance styles (i.e., dance team routine, contemporary ballet, mixed style) without hearing any auditory signals or music. A diverse range of linear and non-linear analyses (i.e., cross-correlation, cross-recurrence quantification analysis, and cross-wavelet analysis) provided converging measures of coordination across multiple time scales. While overall levels of interpersonal coordination were influenced by differences in movement sequence for both groups, dancers consistently displayed higher levels of coordination with the confederate at both short and long time scales. These findings demonstrate that the visual-motor coordination capabilities of trained dancers allow them to better synchronize with other individuals performing dance-like movements than non-dancers. Further investigation of similar tasks may help to increase the understanding of visual-motor entrainment in general, as well as provide insight into the effects of focused training on visual-motor and interpersonal coordination.

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