Oxytocin improves synchronisation in leader-follower interaction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


The neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to affect social interaction. Meanwhile, the underlying mechanism remains highly debated. Using an interpersonal finger-tapping paradigm, we investigated whether oxytocin affects the ability to synchronise with and adapt to the behaviour of others. Dyads received either oxytocin or a non-active placebo, intranasally. We show that in conditions where one dyad-member was tapping to another unresponsive dyad-member – i.e. one was following another who was leading/self-pacing – dyads given oxytocin were more synchronised than dyads given placebo. However, there was no effect when following a regular metronome or when both tappers were mutually adapting to each other. Furthermore, relative to their self-paced tapping partners, oxytocin followers were less variable than placebo followers. Our data suggests that oxytocin improves synchronisation to an unresponsive partner’s behaviour through a reduction in tapping-variability. Hence, oxytocin may facilitate social interaction by enhancing sensorimotor predictions supporting interpersonal synchronisation. The study thus provides novel perspectives on how neurobiological processes relate to socio-psychological behaviour and contributes to the growing evidence that synchronisation and prediction are central to social cognition.


Original languageEnglish
Article number38416
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2016


  • Cooperation, Sensorimotor processing, Social behaviour