Well-being: intra- and interpersonal synchrony

William Condon proposed that being able to entrain in time with another person facilitates physical and emotional well-being (Condon and Ogston 1966), and this has been shown to be the case by researchers in music psychology (Rabinowitch et al. 2011; Hove and Risen 2009). The mistiming in beat, the inability to synchronize, creates problems at a psychological and emotional level and physical illness. Working in psychiatry, Condon sought to understand the relationship between rhythm and health and well-being. Not being able to be with others leads to destabilization.

Condon et al. (Op. cit.) analysed ‘patterns of change’ within ongoing behaviour. Intensive analysis at 1/48th frame per sec (f.p.s.) ‘revealed harmonious or synchronous organizations of change between body motion and speech in both intra-individual and interactional behaviour’. They describe the body of the speaker as dancing in time with their speech, and the body of the listener as dancing in rhythm with the speaker’s speech. Speaker and listener ‘also display body motion organizations of change which are isomorphic with the articulated organization of speech. This shared pattern of change ceases at the word level and occurs with differing configurations of change in relation to phrase and utterance length segments.’ He describes the ‘harmony’ between the body and speech of the speaker as self-synchrony, and the ‘further harmony’ between speaker and listener as ‘interactional synchrony’. Not only did he find this in dyads, but also he found it amongst a group where 7 people are listening to an eight person. Later, Kendon (1990) describes how two listener bodies and gestures move to a third speaker’s voice, whilst the speaker’s body moves to his own voice.

Synchrony only becomes a force for connection when we are synchronized both within ourselves and with another person. Synchronizing to an external beat, such as music, allows us to achieve a degree of synchrony when we are both present to each other whilst listening to it, but it is only when we intend to dance with another person that we have mutual synchrony. Mutual and interpersonal synchrony requires us to have the goal to communicate or perform an activity together.