Surfaces shorter in extent than the feet elicit multi-joint coordination that differs from what is elicited by stance on extensive surfaces. This well-known effect arises from the mechanics of the actor-environment interaction. Multi-joint control of stance is also known to be influenced by non-mechanical aspects of a situation, including participants' task or intention. Intentional constraints do not originate in mechanics, and for this reason one might suppose that constraints imposed by mechanics would dominate constraints imposed by intentions, when the two were in conflict. We evaluated this hypothesis by varying participants' supra-postural task during stance on a short surface. While standing on a 10-cm wide beam, participants were exposed to optic flow generated by fore-aft oscillations of a moving room. Participants faced a target attached to the front wall of the moving room and were asked either to look at the target (with no instruction to move) or intentionally to track it with their head (i.e., to keep the target-head distance constant). Within trials, we varied the frequency of room (and target) motion, from 0.15 to 0.75 Hz, in steps of 0.05 Hz. In both conditions, ankle and hip rotations exhibited antiphase coordination, but behavior was not identical across conditions. Coupling between motion of the room and the head was stronger for the tracking task than for the looking task, and the stability of ankle-hip coordination was greater during tracking than during looking. These results indicate that the influence of support surface mechanics did not eliminate the influence of the supra-postural task. Environment-based and task-based constraints interacted in determining the coordination of hips and ankles during stance.
O. Oullier is with the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431. B.G. Bardy is with the Research Center in Sport Sciences at the Université de Paris XI, Orsay, 91405, France. T.A. Stoffregen is with the Human Factors Research Laboratory in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455. R.J. Bootsma is with the Movement and Perception Laboratory at the Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, 13288, France.