Inability to improve performance with control shows limited access to inner states.

MN Perquin, J Yang, C Teufel, P Sumner, C Hedge, A Bompas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Any repeatedly performed action is characterized by endogenous variability, affecting both speed and accuracy—for a large part presumably caused by fluctuations in underlying brain and body states. The current research questions concerned (a) whether such states are accessible to us and (b) whether we can act upon this information to reduce variability. For example, when playing a game of darts, there is an implicit assumption that people can wait to throw until they are in the right perceptual-attentional state. If this is true, taking away the ability to self-pace the game should worsen performance. We first tested precisely this assumption asking participants to play darts in a self-paced and a fixed-paced condition. There was no benefit of self-pacing, showing that participants were unable to use such control to improve their performance and reduce their variability. Next, we replicated these findings in 2 computer-based tasks, in which participants performed a rapid action-selection and a visual detection task in 1 self-paced and 3 forced-paced conditions. Over 4 different empirical tests, we show that the self-paced condition did not lead to improved performance or reduced variability, nor to reduced temporal dependencies in the reaction time (RT) series. Overall, it seems that, if people have any access to their fluctuating performance-relevant inner states, this access is limited and not relevant for upcoming performance
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249–27
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
Early online date5 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


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