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Ferreiro, Dardo N.; Frith, Chris D. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8665-0690 and Bahrami, Bahador ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0802-5328 (2021): Helping the waiter to hold his tray: Rigid haptic linkage promotes inter-personal motor coordination. In: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 74, No. 10: pp. 1784-1790 [PDF, 1MB]


When a glass is lifted from a tray, there is a challenge for the waiter. He must quickly compensate for the reduction in the weight of the tray to keep it balanced. This compensation is easily achieved if the waiter lifts the glass himself. Because he has, himself, initiated the action, he can predict the timing and the magnitude of the perturbation of the tray and respond (via the holding hand) accordingly. In this study, we examined coordination when either one or two people hold the tray while either one of them or a third person removes the glass. Our results show that there is exquisite coordination between the two people holding the tray. We suggest that this coordination depends upon the haptic link provided by the rigid platform that both people are holding. We conclude that the guest at a reception should not lift his drink from the waiter’s tray until they have the waiter’s attention but, if too thirsty to wait, should lend a hand holding the tray.

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