How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Synchrony and Cooperation
When groups of people do things together, particularly when their actions and words are the same, they feel closer to one another and so become more cooperative.
The synchronous action can be singing, dancing, swimming, running, working and so on. It works better when it includes a repetitive element.
Religious groups and football crowds sing and chant together.
Armies march their troops up and down, all stepping together.
People walking or running together in a group tend to unconsciously fall into step with one another.
Tai Chi and other martial groups all perform the flowing forms or kata together.
Repetition hammers home a point. If the synchrony is repeated, the similarity is emphasized and hence there is an increase in conscious and unconscious recognition of the linkage with others, so ensuring a strengthened bond is created.
McNeill (1995) described 'muscular bonding' created from physically coordinated activity such as marching or dancing. Wiltermuth and Heath (2009) considered ways of overcoming the social loafing 'free-rider' effect, where people in group do not pull their weight, letting others do more of the work. They found that after getting groups to act in synchrony (walking in step in a stroll around the college campus, or singing and moving a cup), there was greater collaboration, including when individuals were asked to sacrifice their own interests for those of the group.
There are clear implications for changing minds in the way that groups can be brought together faster and more reliably by getting them to act in harmony in a wide range of ways.
McNeill, W.H. (1995). Keeping together in time: Dance and drill in human history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wiltermuth, S. S. & Heath, C. (2009). Synchrony and cooperation. Psychological Science, 20, 1-5