Synchronous vs. non-synchronous imitation: Using dance to explore interpersonal coordination during observational learning

Cassandra L. Crone*, Lillian M. Rigoli, Gaurav Patil, Sarah Pini, John Sutton, Rachel W. Kallen, Michael J. Richardson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Observational learning can enhance the acquisition and performance quality of complex motor skills. While an extensive body of research has focused on the benefits of synchronous (i.e., concurrent physical practice) and non-synchronous (i.e., delayed physical practice) observational learning strategies, the question remains as to whether these approaches differentially influence performance outcomes. Accordingly, we investigate the differential outcomes of synchronous and non-synchronous observational training contexts using a novel dance sequence. Using multidimensional cross-recurrence quantification analysis, movement time-series were recorded for novice dancers who either synchronised with (n = 22) or observed and then imitated (n = 20) an expert dancer. Participants performed a 16-count choreographed dance sequence for 20 trials assisted by the expert, followed by one final, unassisted performance trial. Although end-state performance did not significantly differ between synchronous and non-synchronous learners, a significant decline in performance quality from imitation to independent replication was shown for synchronous learners. A non-significant positive trend in performance accuracy was shown for non-synchronous learners. For all participants, better imitative performance across training trials led to better end-state performance, but only for the accuracy (and not timing) of movement reproduction. Collectively, the results suggest that synchronous learners came to rely on a real-time mapping process between visual input from the expert and their own visual and proprioceptive intrinsic feedback, to the detriment of learning. Thus, the act of synchronising alone does not ensure an appropriate training context for advanced sequence learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102776
JournalHuman Movement Science
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by research funding from the Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise, and Training, Macquarie University , and the Australian Research Council ( FT180100447 ).


  • Observational learning
  • Synchronous imitation
  • Non-synchronous imitation
  • Interpersonal coordination
  • Dance
  • Perception-action coupling

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