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Temporal structures in sensorimotor variability are reliable… but what for?

Dr. Marlou Perquin
Cardiff University
Dr. Aline Bompas
Cardiff University ~ CUBRIC - School of Psychology

Human performance is characterised by endogenous variability, which often shows dependency over time. However, studies on these temporal structures typically stay limited to showing that the structures exist in a particular data series. As such, their underlying mechanisms and informativeness for cognitive psychology are largely unknown. Two recent studies reported between-subject correlations between temporal structures and task performance on the same data series, but with contrasting results. In the current work, we investigated the intra-individual repeatability and inter-individual correlates of temporal structures in sensorimotor variability across the most commonly used measures – aiming to examine to what extent these structures are informative for studying individual differences. To capture endogenous sensorimotor variability, participants completed the Metronome Task – in which they press in synchrony with a tone. Occasionally, participants were presented with a thought probe, and were asked to rate their current subjective attentional state. Results indicate that autocorrelation at lag 1 and Power Spectra Density (PDS) slopes show good repeatability, while Detrended Fluctuation Analysis (DFA) slopes only show moderate repeatability, and ARFIMA(1,d,1) repeats poorly. Autocorrelation and PSD, and DFA to a lesser extent, correlated with task performance on the same data series – such that well-performing participants showed less dependency. However, temporal structures did not correlate with mean attentional state ratings nor with self-assessed ADHD tendencies, mind wandering, and impulsivity – negating assumptions that these structures arise due to fluctuations in internal meta-cognitive states. Overall, while temporal structure may be a reliable trait, its usefulness for studying individual differences is yet to be identified.



intra-individual variability
individual differences
time series analysis


Reaction Times
Dynamical Systems
within-task variability Last updated 5 months ago

Very cool stuff! Obviously I love it given my interest in mind-wandering. I very much appreciate your angle of individual differences, but I was wondering how you think about the idea that fluctuations of temporal structure within an experimental session can predict changes in behaviour and self-reported attention. So basically, when a person becom...

Marieke Van Vugt 1 comment
Video not working Last updated 5 months ago

I tried to watch this video in many browsers, but I always get the following error message: "An error occurred. Please try again later. Playback ID: <some code>". Note that this only happens with this specific video. Am I the only one who got an error message?

Mr. Pierre Gianferrara 2 comments