Bimanual cross-talk during reaching movements is primarily related to response selection, not the specification of motor parameters

Eliot Hazeltine, Joern Diedrichsen, Steven W. Kennerley & Richard B. Ivry 2003.


Simultaneous reaching movements made with the two hands can show a considerable increase in reaction time (RT) when they differ in terms of direction or extent, compared to when the movements involve the same direction and extent. This cost has been attributed to cross-talk in the specification of the motor parameters for the two hands. However, a recent study [Diedrichsen, Hazeltine, Kennerley, & Ivry, (2001). Psychological Science, 12, 493–498] indicates that when reaching movements are cued by the onset of the target endpoint, no compatibility effects are observed. To determine why directly cued movements are immune from interference, we varied the stimulus onset asynchrony for the two movements and used different combinations of directly cued and symbolically cued movements. In two experiments, compatibility effects were only observed when both movements were symbolically cued. No difference was found between compatible and incompatible movements when both movements were directly cued or when one was directly cued and the other was symbolically cued. These results indicate that interference is not related to the specification of movement parameters but instead emerges from processes associated with response selection. Moreover, the data suggest that cross-talk, when present, primarily shortens the RT of the second movement on compatible trials rather than lengthening this RT on incompatible trials.