You are in sync with me: neural correlates of interpersonal synchrony with a partner

S. Cacioppo, H. Zhou, G. Monteleone, E.a. Majka, Kimberly Quinn, A.b. Ball, G.j. Norman, G.r. Semin, J.t. Cacioppo

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44 Citations (Scopus)
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Interpersonal synchrony is characterized by a temporary alignment of periodic behaviors with another person. This process requires that at least one of the two individuals monitors and adjusts his/her movements to maintain alignment with the other individual (the referent). Interestingly, recent research on interpersonal synchrony has found that people who are motivated to befriend an unfamiliar social referent tend to automatically synchronize with their social referents, raising the possibility that synchrony may be employed as an affiliation tool. It is unknown, however, whether the opposite is true; that is, whether the person serving as the referent of interpersonal synchrony perceives synchrony with his/her partner or experiences affiliative feelings toward the partner.
To address this question, we performed a series of studies on interpersonal synchrony with a total of 100 participants. In all studies, participants served as the referent with no requirement to monitor or align their behavior with their partners. Unbeknown to the participants, the timings of their “partner’s” movements were actually determined by a computer program based on the participant’s (i.e., referent’s) behavior.
Overall, our behavioral results showed that the referent of a synchrony task expressed greater perceived synchrony and greater social affiliation toward a synchronous partner (i.e., one displaying low mean asynchrony and/or a narrow asynchrony range) than with an asynchronous partner (i.e., one displaying high mean asynchrony and/or high asynchrony range). Our neuroimaging study extended these results by demonstrating involvement of brain areas implicated in social cognition, embodied cognition, self-other expansion, and action observation as correlates of interpersonal synchrony (vs. asynchrony). These findings have practical implications for social interaction and theoretical implications for understanding interpersonal synchrony and social coordination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-858
Early online date1 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2014


  • Shared representations
  • embodied cognition
  • social neuroscience
  • fMRI
  • interpersonal synchrony
  • dyads


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