Preferred rates of repetitive tapping and categorical time production

Document Type


Date of Original Version



In a constrained finger-tapping task, in which a subject attempts to match the rate of tapping responses to the rate of a pacer stimulus, interresponse interval (IRI) was a nonlinear function of interstimulus interval (ISI), in agreement with the results of Collyer, Broadbent, and Church (1992). In an unconstrained task, the subjects were not given an ISI to match, but were instructed to tap at their preferred rate, one that seemed not too fast or too slow for comfortable production. The distribution of preferred IRIs was bimodal rather than unimodal, with modes at 272 and 450 msec. Preferred IRIs also tended to become shorter over successive sessions. Time intervals that were preferred in the unconstrained task tended to be intervals that were overproduced (IRI > ISI) when they were used as ISIs in the constrained task. A multiple-oscillator model of timing developed by Church and Broadbent (1990) was used to simulate the two tasks. The nonlinearity in constrained tapping, termed the oscillator signature, and the bimodal distribution in unconstrained tapping were both exhibited by the model. The nature of the experimental results and the success of the simulation in capturing them both provide further support for a multiple-oscillator view of timing. © 1994 Psychonomic Society, Inc.

Publication Title

Perception & Psychophysics