Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program




Recently, it has been demonstrated that an individual’s rhythmic limb movements exhibit greater variability when viewing spatially incongruent biological limb movements, but not when viewing spatially incongruent non-biological movements. Some researchers have concluded that a ‘mirror-neuron system’ might mediate the intrinsic bidirectional link between perception and action underlying interpersonal, but not environmental, coordination (e.g., Kilner et al., 2003; Tognoli et al., 2007). The current study aimed to: 1) contest this recent finding; and 2) demonstrate that the self-organized entrainment processes of coupled oscillators can explain the differing influences of biological and non-biological movements. In the first experiment, participants intentionally coordinated arm movements with spatially congruent and incongruent arm movements of a confederate, a robotic image with computer generated movement, and a robotic image producing pre-recorded human movement. Results revealed more stable coordination for congruent and biological movement than incongruent and robotic movement, respectively. The second experiment investigated the influence of biological and non-biological movement on unintentional coordination. Consistent with dynamical systems theory, coordination was found in both biological and non-biological conditions.


environmental coordination, non-biological movements, biological movements, dynamical systems theory