Interpersonal interactions for haptic guidance during maximum forward reaching

Saskia M. Steinl, Leif Johannsen (Lead Author)

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Caregiver-patient interactions rely on interpersonal coordination (IPC) involving the haptic and visual modalities. We investigated in healthy individuals spontaneous IPC during joint maximum forward reaching. A 'contact-provider' (CP; n=2) kept light interpersonal touch (IPT) laterally with the wrist of the extended arm of a forward reaching, blind-folded 'contact-receiver' (CR; n=22). Due to the stance configuration, CP was intrinsically more stable. CR received haptic feedback during forward reaching in two ways: (1) presence of a light object (OBT) at the fingertips, (2) provision of IPT. CP delivered IPT with or without vision or tracked manually with vision but without IPT. CR's variabilities of Centre-of-Pressure velocity (CoP) and wrist velocity, interpersonal cross-correlations and time lags served as outcome variables. OBT presence increased CR's reaching amplitude and reduced postural variability in the reach end-state. CR's variability was lowest when CP applied IPT without vision. OBT decreased the strength of IPC. Correlation time lags indicated that CP retained a predominantly reactive mode with CR taking the lead. When CP had no vision, presumably preventing an effect of visual dominance, OBT presence made a qualitative difference: with OBT absent, CP was leading CR. This observation might indicate a switch in CR's coordinative strategy by attending mainly to CP's haptic 'anchor'. Our paradigm implies that in clinical settings the sensorimotor states of both interacting partners need to be considered. We speculate that haptic guidance by a caregiver is more effective when IPT resembles the only link between both partners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
JournalGait & Posture
Early online date30 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Interpersonal touch
  • Forward reach
  • Body sway
  • Social postural coordination

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