Movements Consistency during Repetitive tool use action

Sandra Starke, Christopher Baber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
125 Downloads (Pure)


The consistency and repeatability of movement patterns has been of long-standing interest in locomotor biomechanics, but less well explored in other domains. Tool use is one of such a domain; while the complex dynamics of the human-tool-environment system have been approached from various angles, to date it remains unknown how the rhythmicity of repetitive tool-using action emerges. To examine whether the spontaneously adopted movement frequency is a variable susceptible to individual execution approaches or emerges as constant behaviour, we recorded sawing motion across a range of 14 experimental conditions using various manipulations. This was compared to free and pantomimed arm movements. We found that a mean (SD) sawing frequency of 2.0 (0.4) Hz was employed across experimental conditions. Most experimental conditions did not significantly affect the sawing frequency, signifying the robustness of this spontaneously emerging movement. Free horizontal arm translation and miming of sawing was performed at half the movement frequency with more than double the excursion distance, showing that not all arm movements spontaneously emerge at the observed sawing parameters. Observed movement frequencies across all conditions could be closely predicted from movement time reference data for generic arm movements found in the Methods Time Measurement literature, highlighting a generic biomechanical relationship between the time taken for a given distance travelled underlying the observed behaviour. We conclude that our findings lend support to the hypothesis that repetitive movements during tool use are executed according to generic and predictable musculoskeletal mechanics and constraints, albeit in the context of the general task (sawing) and environmental constraints such as friction, rather than being subject to task-specific control or individual cognitive schemata.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0173281
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2017


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