Interpersonal synchrony

The analysis of synchrony and rhythm in interpersonal communication and human cognition is a growing area of research across various disciplines.

For example, just in 2009, researchers developing avatars for multi-modal interfaces in a recent European COST Action 2102 (2009) addressed the operation of synchrony in the dynamics of human spoken interaction. In research on language, recent papers by Levinson are opening a discussion on the conversational turn itself as having a temporal quality which facilitates the rhythmicity in speech (2011), and that this temporal structure creates the momentum for positive joint interaction (2006). Furthermore, work by Local (Local 2003, 2007; Local and Walker 2004) on phonetics suggests that phonology entrains turn taking through natural vocal interpersonal synchrony and is also a dimension of the construction of the turn (via abrupt joins, e.g. the shifts in what a person is saying).

On the relation between music and language, work in music psychology by Cross (2011) is identifying that there is a correlation at the level of the relational, and he has shifted the idea of intentionality from the linguistic cognitive domain to the relational domain with the concept of ‘floating intentionality’.

Research on interpersonal synchrony, for example the work of Condon, has shown that our capacity to mutually adapt to each other is fundamental for us to survive as social beings. This is supported by studies in music psychology by Himberg (2008, 2011) who reveal that if two people are asked to move to an artificial beat (e.g. the metronome) and can also hear each other’s movements (e.g. finger taps), they will naturally mutually adapt with each other’s beats than to the artificial beat without conscious awareness.

In the cross-cultural setting such mutual adaptation is not immediate and requires enculturation. In Hall’s proxemics dance of the Americans and Mediterranean persons (Hall 1983), the need to maintain the cultural body space was expressed in their synchrony of moving every 30 s to readjust their differences, but there was no mutual adaptation taking place to manage their cultural difference. The calibration that Hall speaks of as being essential for cultural understanding is understood to mean mutual adaptation.