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Marching in tune does improve teamwork

According to the researchers, people who engage in synchronous activity together are more likely to cooperate with other group members.

sex and relationships Updated: Jan 30, 2009 14:59 IST

Ever wondered why armies engaged in synchronized activities? Well, a new study from Stanford University has found the answer to the query.

According to the researchers, people who engage in synchronous activity together are more likely to cooperate with other group members.

Psychologists Scott S. Wiltermuth and Chip Heath have found that participation in various synchronized activities fosters cooperation.

For the study, the researchers conducted a series of experiments to see how synchronous movement affects group interactions.

The volunteers from the synchronous groups reported greater feelings of being on the same team.

In the first experiment, two groups of volunteers walked around campus - one group was told to walk normally and the other group was told to walk in-step. Following the walks, the volunteers participated in an economics game that measures expectations of cooperation- the more the volunteers cooperate, the larger the payoff they would receive at the end of the experiment.

In the second experiment, volunteers listened to music via headphones and had to move cups back and forth in time to the music.

The volunteers were divided into different groups, Some of the groups listened to the same music and thus moved their cups in a synchronous manner, while others listened to music at different tempos, so their movements were not synchronized.

This was again followed by an economics game where more cooperation would result in larger payoff.

This final game was designed so that players could put tokens in a public account, or keep the tokens for themselves. The general economic strategy in this game is to behave selfishly keeping one''s tokens in a private account while at the same time taking advantage of others'' contributions to the public account.

The results showed that synchrony fosters cooperation- even when all of the volunteers had financial incentives to cooperate, the volunteers from the synchronized groups tended to be more cooperative during the games (and ended up earning more money) than volunteers from groups who had moved asynchronously.

Moreover, in the last economics game, participants from the synchronized groups were more willing to contribute tokens to the public account, sacrificing their own money to help their group.

The authors concluded "synchrony rituals may have therefore endowed some cultural groups with an advantage in societal evolution, leading some groups to survive where others have failed."

The new study is published in the Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science

First Published: Jan 29, 2009 13:08 IST