Cognitive Processing

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 325–332 | Cite as

Movement dynamics reflect a functional role for weak coupling and role structure in dyadic problem solving

  • Drew H. Abney
  • Alexandra Paxton
  • Rick Dale
  • Christopher T. Kello
Research Report


Successful interaction requires complex coordination of body movements. Previous research has suggested a functional role for coordination and especially synchronization (i.e., time-locked movement across individuals) in different types of human interaction contexts. Although such coordination has been shown to be nearly ubiquitous in human interaction, less is known about its function. One proposal is that synchrony supports and facilitates communication (Topics Cogn Sci 1:305–319, 2009). However, questions still remain about what the properties of coordination for optimizing communication might look like. In the present study, dyads worked together to construct towers from uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows. Using cross-recurrence quantification analysis, we found that dyads with loosely coupled gross body movements performed better, supporting recent work suggesting that simple synchrony may not be the key to effective performance (Riley et al. 2011). We also found evidence that leader–follower dynamics—when sensitive to the specific role structure of the interaction—impact task performance. We discuss our results with respect to the functional role of coordination in human interaction.


Movement dynamics Synchronization Problem solving Dyadic systems 


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Drew H. Abney
    • 1
  • Alexandra Paxton
    • 1
  • Rick Dale
    • 1
  • Christopher T. Kello
    • 1
  1. 1.Cognitive and Information SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaMercedUSA

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