Response preparation with adjacent versus overlapped hands: A pupillometric study.

S.M.J. Moresi, J.J.M.E. Adam*, J.M. Rijcken, H. Kuipers, M. Severens, P.W.M. van Gerven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


Preparatory cues facilitate performance in speeded choice tasks. It is debated, however, whether the lateralized neuro-anatomical organization of the human motor system contributes to this facilitation. To investigate this issue, we examined response preparation in a finger-cuing task using two conditions. In the hands adjacent condition, the hands were placed adjacently to each other with index and middle fingers placed on four linearly arrayed response keys. In the overlapped hand placement condition, the fingers of different hands alternated, thus dissociating hand and spatial position factors. Preparatory cues specified a subset of two fingers. Left-right cues specified the two leftmost or two rightmost fingers. Inner-outer cues specified the two inner or outer fingers. Alternate cues specified the first and third, or the second and fourth finger in the response set. In addition to reaction time and response errors, we measured the pupillary response to assess the cognitive processing load associated with response preparation. Results showed stronger pupil dilations (and also longer RTs and more errors) for the overlapped than for the adjacent hand placement condition, reflecting an overall increase in cognitive processing load. Furthermore, the negative impact of overlapping the hands on pupil dilation interacted with cue type, indicating that left-right cues (associated with two fingers on one hand) suffered most from overlapping the hands. With the hands overlapped, alternate cues (now associated with two fingers on the same hand) produced the shortest RTs. These findings demonstrate the importance of motoric factors in response preparation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-286
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • Response preparation
  • Pupil diameter
  • Cognitive load
  • Reaction time

Cite this