100 Things You Should Know About People: #32 — Synchronous activity bonds the group

Photo of sports fan doing a cheerWhat do members of a marching band, fans at a college football game, and people at Sunday church have in common? They are all engaging in “synchronous” activity.

What is synchronous activity? — It is when you take action with others, where everyone is moving, singing, chanting, in time together.

What happens when we engage in “timed” behavior together? — Anthropologists have long been interested in rituals among certain cultures. Many rituals in a culture involve singing, chanting, drumming, dancing, or moving together. A recent study (see below for full reference) shows that when people take part in synchronous activities they then are more cooperative with each other when participating later in different activities.

You’ll make more personal sacrifices — In the research the people who were involved in synchronous behavior with other people were then more cooperative in subsequent activities, and ended up making more personal sacrifices in their decisions.

Not just about feeling good — The research also shows that you don’t have to feel good about the group or the group activity in order to be more cooperative. Just the act of doing the synchronous activity seems to strengthen social attachment among the group members.

Here’s my list of synchronous activities I can think of:

  • Singing together
  • Cheers at sporting events
  • Drumming or dancing together
  • Pledge of allegiance
  • Shouting slogans at rallies or marches
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga

Can you think of other examples?

The reference — Scott S. Wiltermuth  and Chip Heath,  Synchrony and Cooperation, Psychological Science, Volume 20 Issue 1, Pages 1 – 5

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