Tal-Chen Rabinowitch is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, University of Washington. Her research examines the connections between music, synchrony and emotional and social interaction in toddlers and young children. She obtained her Ph.D at the Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge.
Dr. Andrew N. Meltzoff holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair and is the Co-Director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. A graduate of Harvard University, with a PhD from Oxford University, he is an internationally renowned expert on infant and child development.
The Power of Being in Sync
Imagine a father and daughter building a sand castle together, or two children lifting a toy that is too heavy for one of them alone. Such activities require individuals to cooperate. Cooperation is one of the most basic, indispensible, and unique capacities of humans.
Based on previous research, we were interested in whether engaging children in a brief session of synchronous movement would affect how they subsequently cooperated with each other.
Pairs of 4-year-old children that had never met before came to our lab, where there was a special swing set that we had constructed. Some of the pairs were swung in synchrony with one another, and some were swung completely out of synch. Others were not swung at all. After this experience we gave these children several tasks that required them to cooperate. We found that children who were swung in synchrony, tended to cooperate better, faster and smoother than children who were swung in asynchrony, or not swung at all. In addition, children who experienced synchronized movement used intentional signals to enhance their cooperation.
We think that the joint, synchronous movement facilitates cooperation between the children by focusing their attention to the coordination in their movements. Such synchronous movement might have also induced feelings of affinity or likeness with the partner—you are like me and I am like you—which could enhance their cooperation. The children were literally ‘in swing’ with each other.
We are now planning other studies to better understand how synchrony facilitates cooperation and social interaction between children. But for now, we can conclude that moving together in time, by drumming, playing, swinging together not only is a fun, and engaging activity, but may also lead to a more positive and smooth interaction between children.