Journal article Open Access

Interpersonal synchronization of spontaneously generated body movements

Koul, Atesh; Ahmar, Davide; Iannetti, Gian Domenico; Novembre, Giacomo

Interpersonal movement synchrony (IMS) is central to social behavior in several species. In humans, IMS is typically studied using structured tasks requiring participants to produce specific body movements. Instead, spontaneously generated (i.e., not instructed) movements have received less attention. To test whether spontaneous movements synchronize interpersonally, we recorded full-body kinematics from dyads of participants who were only asked to sit face-to-face and to look at each other. We manipulated interpersonal (i) visual contact and (ii) spatial proximity. We found that spontaneous movements synchronized across participants only when they could see each other and regardless of interpersonal spatial proximity. This synchronization emerged very rapidly and did not selectively entail homologous body parts (as in mimicry); rather, the synchrony generalized to nearly all possible combinations of body parts. Hence, spontaneous behavior alone can lead to IMS. More generally, our results highlight that IMS can be studied under natural and unconstrained conditions.

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