Coordination Matters: Interpersonal Synchrony Influences Collaborative Problem-Solving

Lynden K. Miles, Joanne Lumsden, Natasha Flannigan, Jamie S. Allsop, Dannette Marie

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Moving in time with others is a central characteristic of social life and has been shown to promote a host of social-cognitive attunements (e.g., person memory, affiliation, prosociality) for those involved. Less attention has been paid, however, to how the effects of coordination can serve higher-order goal-directed social behaviour. Here we explored whether interpersonal synchrony impacts performance on a collaborative problem-solving task. One hundred and ninety two participants completed a short movement exercise in pairs whereby coordination mode was manipulated (in-phase synchrony, asynchrony, control). Each pair then jointly discussed a problem-solving exercise while the degree to which coordination spontaneously emerged was assessed. The results revealed that collaboration was more effective following in-phase coordination. Of theoretical significance, both instructed and spontaneous synchrony were associated with better performance, with the short-term history of each dyad shaping precisely when coordination was functional. Overall, the synchronization of body movements appears to support effective collaboration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1857-1878
Number of pages22
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Martha von Werthern and Caitlin Taylor for their assistance with data collection, Cathy Macpherson for her assistance with the preparation of the manuscript, and Mike Richardson, Alex Paxton, and Rick Dale for providing MATLAB code to assist with data analysis. The research was funded by the British Academy (SG131613).


  • Interpersonal Synchrony
  • Coordination
  • Problem Solving
  • Social Interaction
  • Collaboration


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