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02-03-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2017 Open Access

Psychological Research 3/2017

Increased cognitive demands boost the spatial interference effect in bimanual pointing

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2017
Ioana Stanciu, Stefanie C. Biehl, Constanze Hesse


It is beyond controversy that in bimanual coordination tasks, parameter planning related to the movements of one hand influences the planning and execution of movements simultaneously performed with the other hand. A well-researched example of such bimanual interference is the finding that reaction times tend to be longer when preparing bimanual pointing movements with different amplitudes than for equal amplitude movements. Interestingly, these reaction time costs were found to increase when movement targets were cued symbolically (e.g., using letters) as compared to spatially. Therefore, it was suggested that interference may be primarily related to cue translation and response selection processes rather than resulting from cross-talk at the motor programming level. Here, we argue that spatial interference effects do not necessarily depend on the type of cues used but instead depend on the general task demands (difficulty). In two experiments we show that bimanual interference effects can (1) be abolished in symbolic cueing conditions when highly compatible cues placing minimal demands on response selection processes are used and (2) occur in direct/spatial cueing conditions when a secondary cognitively demanding, but movement-unrelated task is performed. Thus, our findings suggest that whether or not interference effects emerge during movement planning depends on the overall task difficulty and hence the resources available during movement preparation.

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