Exploring the “Dark Matter” of Social Interaction: Systematic Review of a Decade of Research in Spontaneous Interpersonal Coordination

Ayache, J
Connor, A
Marks, S
Kuss, D
Rhodes, D
Sumich, A
Heym, N
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Journal Article
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Frontiers Media

Interpersonal coordination is a research topic that has attracted considerable attention this last decade both due to a theoretical shift from intra-individual to inter-individual processes and due to the development of new methods for recording and analyzing movements in ecological settings. Encompassing spatiotemporal behavioral matching, interpersonal coordination is considered as “social glue” due to its capacity to foster social bonding. However, the mechanisms underlying this effect are still unclear and recent findings suggest a complex picture. Goal-oriented joint action and spontaneous coordination are often conflated, making it difficult to disentangle the role of joint commitment from unconscious mutual attunement. Consequently, the goals of the present article are twofold: (1) to illustrate the rapid expansion of interpersonal coordination as a research topic and (2) to conduct a systematic review of spontaneous interpersonal coordination, summarizing its latest developments and current challenges this last decade. By applying Rapid Automatic Keyword Extraction and Latent Dirichlet Allocation algorithms, keywords were extracted from PubMed and Scopus databases revealing the large diversity of research topics associated with spontaneous interpersonal coordination. Using the same databases and the keywords “behavioral matching,” “interactional synchrony,” and “interpersonal coordination,” 1,213 articles were identified, extracted, and screened following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses protocol. A total of 19 articles were selected using the following inclusion criteria: (1) dynamic and spontaneous interactions between two unacquainted individuals (2) kinematic analyses, and (3) non-clinical and non-expert adult populations. The results of this systematic review stress the proliferation of various definitions and experimental paradigms that study perceptual and/or social influences on the emergence of spontaneous interpersonal coordination. As methods and indices used to quantify interpersonal coordination differ from one study to another, it becomes difficult to establish a coherent picture. This review highlights the need to reconsider interpersonal coordination not as the pinnacle of social interactions but as a complex dynamical process that requires cautious interpretation. An interdisciplinary approach is necessary for building bridges across scattered research fields through opening a dialogue between different theoretical frameworks and consequently provides a more ecological and holistic understanding of human social cognition.

Interpersonal coordination; Two-body neurosciences; Systematic review; Behavioral matching; Interactional synchrony
Frontiers in Psychology, 12:718237. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.718237
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© 2021 Ayache, Connor, Marks, Kuss, Rhodes, Sumich and Heym. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.