In an example of how a physical activity performed in unison helps children feel more positively toward one another, researchers have found that even a video game played together in sync on a computer could increase their empathy.
The study showed that eight-year-olds reported a greater sense of similarity and closeness immediately after playing the video game in sync, those who played the same game but not in a synchronous way did not report the same increase in connection.
"Synchrony is like a glue that brings people together -- it is a magical connector for people," said lead author Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington.
Synchrony occurs when people interact together in time. It is a fundamental prerequisite for activities such as playing music, dancing and rowing.
In adults, synchrony has been linked to increased cooperation and teamwork, making work more efficient and productive, but a few studies have examined whether the same is true among children.
In the experiment, Rabinowitch tested 74 eight-year-old children in pairs of two boys and two girls.
The children were made to sit side by side in front of a video screen. An animated soccer ball bounced on both halves of the screen, and the children pressed a button whenever the ball on their side of the screen hit the floor.
For some pairs of children, the balls bounced in sync, so their fingers tapped the buttons simultaneously. Other pairs of children had out-of-sync bouncing, so they had asynchronous finger tapping.
Children in the synchronous group reported a greater sense of similarity and closeness.
The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that time-based synchronised activities, including in music, dance and sports, could be useful tools in bringing children closer together.