Interpersonal Rhythms Matter for Group Performance

New research looks at whether differences in people’s movements influence coordination of group actions. That is, does matching participants based on their movement rates improve group performance?

The answer is yes, according to Canadian researchers from McGill University. Investigators believe the finding may help us predict for each person how successful they will be in a group task.

Study results will be published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

“We found that pairs of musicians (pianists) with similar rates of solo music performance are better at synchronizing the timing of tone onsets during piano duets than partners with different solo performance rates,” said McGill psychology professor Dr. Caroline Palmer.

“We think this could extend to interpersonal synchrony in other fields, such as recreational activities like jogging, where health benefits may be greatest when partners are matched for rates; or in education, when teachers and students are matched in conversational speech rates; and especially in sports, such as tennis doubles, pairs skating, or team rowing,” explains Palmer.

McGill researchers found that solo rates are a stable predictor of coordination between individuals.

There were no group differences in other factors known to influence coordination, such as years of musical training and age at which pianists started musical training. This suggests that solo rates are the only difference in partners’ duet coordination between matched and mismatched pairs.

“These findings suggest that coordination of timing with a partner is facilitated by similarity of partners’ individual movement speeds,” said Anna Zamm, a Ph.D student at McGill and the study’s first author.

Therefore, the performance of a group could be improved by matching participants with similar internal rhythms.

“Success on group tasks is linked to how well pair members match up, a bit like rowers in a boat. The boat will move straight ahead if both people are matched in the force with which they row,” said Palmer.

“It does not matter whether each individual is strong or weak — it’s the match in force that matters.”

Source: McGill University