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Emergence of spontaneous anticipatory hand movements in a probabilistic environment

Advances in Cognitive Psychology
University of Finance and Management in Warsaw
Publication Date
DOI: 10.2478/v10053-008-0132-y
  • Research Article


In this article, we present a novel experimental approach to the study of anticipation in probabilistic cuing. We implemented a modified spatial cuing task in which participants made an anticipatory hand movement toward one of two probabilistic targets while the (x, y)-computer mouse coordinates of their hand movements were sampled. This approach allowed us to tap into anticipatory processes as they occurred, rather than just measuring their behavioral outcome through reaction time to the target. In different conditions, we varied the participants’ degree of certainty of the upcoming target position with probabilistic pre-cues. We found that participants initiated spontaneous anticipatory hand movements in all conditions, even when they had no information on the position of the upcoming target. However, participants’ hand position immediately before the target was affected by the degree of certainty concerning the target’s position. This modulation of anticipatory hand movements emerged rapidly in most participants as they encountered a constant probabilistic relation between a cue and an upcoming target position over the course of the experiment. Finally, we found individual differences in the way anticipatory behavior was modulated with an uncertain/neutral cue. Implications of these findings for probabilistic spatial cuing are discussed.

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