The verbalization of meaningless sounds interferes with hand grip initiation


It is of popular belief that verbalizing meaningless sounds during manual sports (e.g., tennis) can improve motor performance. This claim is seemingly a truism, while it also fits with motor learning models (e.g., cognitive stage: Fitts & Posner, 1967) and embodied cognition theories (e.g., Shapiro, 2007). Further, recent research has shown that the initiation latency of some manual movements can be reduced or increased by the concurrent vocalizations of different sounds. For example, precision grip RT is significantly longer with the concurrent production of the syllable /ka/ in comparison to /ti/, while power grip RT is significantly longer with the production of the syllable /ti/ in comparison to /ka/ (Vainio et al. 2013). Of particular interest is whether hand grip RT can indeed be facilitated by said syllable-grip compatibility. To address this question, the syllable /ti/, /ka/, or no syllable (a square) was presented in black font to participants (n=20). Subsequently, the syllable/square changed colors (blue or green) and participants initiated a corresponding precision or power grip. After every trial whereby a syllable was shown, participants were also prompted to report the syllable they saw. For the power grip, the syllable /ti/ and /ka/ both yielded longer RTs than grip alone (square) . Similarly, both syllables also interfered with precision RT. In contrast to popular belief, our results suggest that the verbalization of meaningless sounds does not facilitate, but rather interferes with, hand grip initiation.

Acknowledgments: University of Toronto, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Ontario Research Fund (ORF), Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)