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Previous research highlighted that during social interactions people shape each other’s emotional states by resonance mechanisms and synchronized autonomic patterns. Starting from the idea that joint actions create shared emotional experiences, in the present study a social bond was experimentally induced by making subjects cooperate with each other. Participants’ autonomic system activity (electrodermal: skin conductance level and response: SCL, SCR; cardiovascular indices: heart rate: HR) was continuously monitored during an attentional couple game. The cooperative motivation was induced by presenting feedback which reinforced the positive outcomes of the intersubjective exchange. 24 participants coupled in 12 dyads were recruited. Intrasubject analyses revealed higher HR in the first part of the task, connoted by increased cognitive demand and arousing social dynamic, while intersubject analysis showed increased synchrony in electrodermal activity after the feedback. Such results encourage the use of hyperscanning techniques to assess emotional coupling in ecological and real-time paradigms.
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Research Article
Affective Synchrony and Autonomic Coupling during
Cooperation: A Hyperscanning Study
Maria Elide Vanutelli,1,2,3 Laura Gatti,1,2 Laura Angioletti,1,2 and Michela Balconi1,2
1Research Unit in Aective and Social Neuroscience, Catholic University of Milan, Milan, Italy
2Department of Psychology, Catholic University of Milan, Milan, Italy
3Department of Philosophy, Universit`
a degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
Correspondence should be addressed to Maria Elide Vanutelli; mariaelide.vanutelli@unicatt.it
Received 10 June 2017; Accepted 6 November 2017; Published 27 November 2017
Academic Editor: Margaret A. Niznikiewicz
Copyright ©  Maria Elide Vanutelli et al. is is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly
cited.
Previous research highlighted that during social interactions people shape each other’s emotional states by resonance mechanisms
and synchronized autonomic patterns. Starting from the idea that joint actions create shared emotional experiences, in the present
study a social bond was experimentally induced by making subjects cooperate with each other. Participants’ autonomic system
activity (electrodermal: skin conductance level and response: SCL, SCR; cardiovascular indices: heart rate: HR) was continuously
monitored during an attentional couple game. e cooperative motivation was induced bypresenting feedback which reinforced the
positive outcomes of the intersubjective exchange.  participants coupled in  dyads were recruited. Intrasubject analyses revealed
higher HR in the rst part of the task, connoted by increased cognitive demand and arousing social dynamic, while intersubject
analysis showed increased synchrony in electrodermal activity aer the feedback. Such results encourage the use of hyperscanning
techniques to assess emotional coupling in ecological and real-time paradigms.
1. Introduction
e capacity to bond with other people has been associated
with a series of positive eects for human beings, such
as greater self-satisfaction [, ] and mental and physical
well-being, including, for example, resiliency, thus reducing
personal distress [–]. e creation of such positive relation-
ships is thought to rely upon a bidirectional bond of aective
and behavioral responses between two or more individuals
[, ].
Empiric research highlighted that during social inter-
actions people signicantly aect and shape each other’s
states and behaviors [] by basic resonance mechanisms.
In fact, sharing others’ emotional states can provide the
observers with a somatosensory framework that facilitates
understanding their intentions and actions and allows the
observers to understand but also to sync with other people
[–]. Interestingly, recent research proposed that, during
social exchange, such synchronization can actually occur in
the form of an alignment of behavior [, ] and posture []
as well as neurophysiological [, ] and psychophysiological
measures [–].
e focus on interpersonal dynamics required to adapt
the experimental setting to reality [] and move from a
single-person approach to a “second person” neuroscience
[] by adopting a new paradigm, “hyperscanning,” which
allows the simultaneous recording of the cortical activity
from two or more participants interacting together [] by
creating “spatiotemporal maps of cerebral regions involved
in the generation of the social task investigated” in a study
[, ].
Among social interactions, cooperation is an exempli-
cative case of joint action that involves two or more
individuals during the production of common behavioral
eects [, ] which produces a social reward per se by
involving emotional mechanisms. Previous hyperscanning
approach already highlighted some patterns of neural
synchronization during cooperation by EEG [–] or
Hindawi
BioMed Research International
Volume 2017, Article ID 3104564, 9 pages
https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3104564
BioMed Research International
functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) [, –].
Nonetheless, the autonomic modulations with respect to
such processes still need to be claried.
In fact, the importance given to brain-to-brain coupling
led to neglecting some other important information com-
ing, for example, from autonomic synchronization. Indeed,
previous research showed that the physiological activity is
related to dierent interpersonal processes such as empathy
[] and many other social and emotional behaviors [,
]. More interestingly, it has been proved that physiological
synchrony may reveal how people are linked with each
other []. Also, the acquisition of autonomic indices has
some advantages, since it is more feasible than imaging and
electroencephalographic (EEG) methods []. Unfortunately,
such processes have been mostly explored in conventional
single-person approach [, ].
For example, a widely used technique considers the
response of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) to detect
“ght-or-ight” responses that can reveal some cues about
people’s emotional state, as well as about their personality
[]. It is the case of electrodermal activity (EDA) recording,
which identies modications in skin conductivity deriv-
ing from sweat emission. It comprises a tonic component
representative of the general trend, called skin conductance
level (SCL), together with a phasic component indicating
event-related skin conductance responses (SCR) in the form
of rapid uctuations within the tonic signal [, ]. e
presence of a coevolution of electrodermal responses has
been associated with the quality of social interactions [].
In parallel, cardiovascular activity has been also pre-
viouslyusedtoassessphysiologicalsynchrony.Asalready
suggested by Helm and colleagues [] heart rate is thought,
amongall,toincreaseduringstatesofanger,fear,andsadness
[–]. In fact, it has been proved that uctuations in car-
diovascular response are associated with negative emotions
[–].
Some previous studies within a developmental perspec-
tive showed that the coevolution of autonomic patterns is
associated with parent-infant coregulation (see, e.g., [, ]).
It was found that behavioral and physiological synchrony
during parent-infant play covaries with infant self-regulation
and cognitive and theory-of-mind abilities. For example,
Feldman [] investigated the association between biological
and social rhythms by measuring sleep-wake cyclicity and
heart rate variability and demonstrated their contribution to
the emergence of parent-infant interactive synchrony. Inter-
estingly, the author suggested that the temporal organization
of such physiological indicators permits the infant’s capacity
to be part of a matched social dialogue. Indeed, by beginning
with this rst experience of dyadic tuning, infants learn to
coconstruct optimal aective states during social interactions
and to be part of complex social organizations [, ].
Similarly, still considering signicant bonds, peripheral
synchronization has been associated with couples’ linkage
and aective exchange. For example, Helm and colleagues
[] recorded respiration and heart rate from romantic part-
ners across dierent laboratory tasks, including gazing and
imitation. Results suggested that partner’s heart rate and res-
piration could indicate shared physiological responses during
interactions designed to elicit shared emotional arousal.
Specically, respiration patterns between romantic partners
aligned with each other during the imitation and, especially,
the gazing task, while heart rate showed associations in both
tasks.
Finally, analogous regulatory processes have been found
for patient-therapist interactions []. In this case, results
showed that, during moments of high versus low skin
conductance concordance, there were signicantly more
positive social-emotional interactions, including empathic
mechanisms, for both patients and therapists.
All these data support the idea that autonomic synchrony
could be indicative of various social and emotional exchange.
Importantly, a study by Konvalinka and colleagues []
highlighted that physiological synchrony is also mediated by
social information in addition to synchronized behavior. In
fact, they measured heart rate coherence during a social ritual
and found that synchronized patterns varied according to
people emotional closeness.
Forwhatconcernscooperationindetail,fewprevious
works considered autonomic modulation during coopera-
tive/prosocial tasks. For example, Balconi and Bortolotti
[] showed participants dierent interpersonal scene types
(cooperation, noncooperation, conict, and indierence)
while their autonomic responses (facial electromyography,
SCR, and HR) were recorded. Results showed increased “pos-
itive” (zygomatic) facial expression and a higher autonomic
activity (increased arousal, SCR, and HR) for cooperative
condition, together with an increased “negative” (corrugator)
facial expression and higher arousal (more SCR and HR) for
conictual conditions and reduced emotional involvement in
response to noncooperative scenes, with lower SCR and HR
values.
Nonetheless, no earlier work, at our knowledge, previ-
ously considered emotional coregulation and physiological
linkage during a real cooperative social interaction. us,
in the present study, a cooperative dynamic was articially
created in real-time in a way to explore how the autonomic
synchronization varies according to social and emotional
engagement. In detail, subjects were required to complete an
attentional task together with a mate with the instruction to
synchronize their responses to obtain a joint performance.
A cooperative motivation was induced through the pre-
sentation of social feedback to reinforce the adoption of
good common strategies and the subsequent achievement of
joint outcomes. In fact, halfway through the task, they were
informed about their success as a couple and their functional
use of cooperative strategies.
Former available knowledge on the topic was acquired
by considering previously existing couples of participants
(see previous studies about mother-infant, romantic, and
patient-therapist couples). In contrast, starting from the
idea that cooperation creates shared, empathetic, emotional
experiences [], in this case the social bond was induced
in real-time by making participants cooperate with each
other. To explore these issues participants’ autonomic activity
was continuously monitored. Electrodermal indices, both
SCL and SCR, as well as cardiovascular measures (HR)
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Baseline Prefeedback Postfeedback
Target Tria l 1 Tri al 2Tr ial 3New target
··· ···
···
··· Trial 100
Trial feedback
Autonomic measure recording
Every three trials
5000 ms
New target Trial 200
General
feedback
F : Experimental setting with autonomic measures recording.
were acquired in a way to assess subjects’ aective state and
synchrony.
To summarize, the aim of the present study was to inves-
tigate the autonomic synchronization in dyads of participants
during bond construction, which was articially induced by
administering social feedback in a way to reinforce their
cooperative strategies and, consequently, their psychological
bond.
Two dierent orders of analysis have been performed:
intrasubject analysis was conducted in a way to assess par-
ticipants’ general physiological state during dierent phases
of bond construction. According to previous evidence, we
expected increased arousal responses, and in detail higher
HR, in the rst part of the task. Here, in fact, the adoption
of shared strategies to synchronize with the other mate
couldheightenthecognitiveloadnecessarytoperformthe
task. Also, before the social reinforcing, the companion
could be still not perceived as an ally, thus leading to less
cooperative responses. On the contrary, we expected that,
aer receiving the social feedback about the adoption of
good joint strategies, participants could begin to perceive
andreinforcethecouplebond,withsubsequentdecreased
arousal, which could be framed into a more positive, close
dynamic.
en,inthesecondstepintersubjectanalysishasbeen
performed in a way to assess couples’ synchrony by auto-
nomic indices across the task. In this case, we expected an
increased synchronization aer the social manipulation, in
line with heightened social engagement and bonding, with a
subsequent increased physiological linkage and synchronic-
ity throughout the task, as assessed by electrodermal indices
(both SCL and SCR).
2. Material and Methods
2.1. Participants.  participants,  females and  males,
coupled in  dyads were recruited (Mage =.,SD=.).
Each couple was composed of two individuals of the same sex,
matched for age. ey did not meet and were not familiar
before the experimental session. e participants were all
right-handed; they presented normal or corrected-to-normal
visualacuityandgaveinformedwrittenconsenttoparticipate
in the study. No neurological or psychiatric pathologies were
observed, based on preliminary exploration. e research was
approved by the local ethics committee of the Department of
Psychology, Catholic University of Milan. No payment was
provided for their participation.
2.2. Procedure. Subjects were comfortably seated in a mod-
erately darkened room with a computer screen positioned
approximately  cm from their eyes. ey were required
to perform a simple task for sustained selective attention
(modiedfromtheoriginaltaskofBalconiandPagani
[, –]). To engage subjects in the task, they were told
that some cognitive attentive indices were used to evaluate
their subjective skills and that these measures are usually
used as a screening to test future professional career success
and teamwork capabilities. us, the development of a joint
cooperative strategy by the couple was reinforced. ey were
seated side-by-side but separated by a dark screen to prevent
visual contact and to avoid any eect due to nonverbal
behavior.
e attentional task required to select target stimuli
between nontargets, based on four dierent combinations of
shape and color: triangles and circles and blue and green.
Each target was displayed on the screen and subjects were
askedtokeepitinmemory.en,stimuliwerepresented
one aer another in a randomized order (see Figure ). e
target stimulus features were varied in every experimental
block, composed of  trials. e task was composed of
eight sessions (eight blocks of  trials each). Subjects were
instructed to answer all the stimuli by pressing le/right
buttons to decide between targets or nontargets. Each stim-
ulus was presented on the screen for  ms, with a  ms
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interstimulus interval (ISI). Each trial was composed of three
stimuli.
At the end of each trial, subjects received feedback aer
 ms in the form of two up-arrows (high cooperation
score); a dash (mean performance); or two down-arrows (low
cooperation score). is feedback was shown for  ms
and then an intertrial interval (ITI) occurred for another
 ms. us participants constantly received an evaluation
of their cooperative performance, xed by the researcher.
Besides trial-feedback, aer the rst four blocks (halfway of
the task) subjects received a general feedback, still premanip-
ulated, which informed subjects they had a good cooperation
(temporal synchrony and paired performance: score with
% in terms of speed and % in terms of accuracy).
ey were also encouraged to keep their performance level
during the experiment. During the task, aer an initial mean
performance, subjects were constantly reinforced about their
good cooperation by presenting the up-arrows in % of
cases,whilethedashorthedown-arrowsappearedin%
of cases.
2.3. Autonomic Measures Recording and Analysis. Two por t a -
ble Biofeedback xpert2000 systems with radio module MULTI
(Schuhfried GmbH, M¨
odling,Austria)havebeenusedforthe
recording of the autonomic activity. e system is capable of
measuring skin conductance level and response (SCL, SCR)
in 𝜇Sandheartrate(HR)inbeatsperminute(pbm).SCL
wasrecordedwithanEDAgoldelectrodeusingcurrent-
voltage measurement at a sampling rate of  kHz. e use of
alternating voltage prevents polarization. e measurement
resolution for SCL was  nS, with a sampling rate of  Hz.
HR was measured by infrared absorption principle with
a sampling rate of  Hz. e range of parameter was
– bpm. Moreover, the mobility of the nondominant
hand was monitored with an accelerometer in m/s2integrated
into the sender unit to ensure that recordings were not com-
promised by hand movements. Trials with motor artifacts
were excluded from the analyses. All sensors were combined
in one unit which was attached to the volar surface of the
middlesectionoftheforengerofthenondominanthand.
3. Results
Two orders of analyses were performed: a rst step included
a general analysis (repeated measure ANOVA) about the
modulation of the dependent variables (SCL, SCR, and HR)
throughout the task. A second step included the calculation
of intersubjects correlational indices nalized to compute
thesynchronizationindiceswithineachcoupleforeach
autonomic measure. Such indices were successively entered
as dependent variables into dierent ANOVA tests, one for
each autonomic measure with independent factor feedback
(pre; post) and block (from st to th), to assess dierences
in synchrony strength across the experimental conditions.
For all the ANOVA tests, the degrees of freedom have
been corrected using Greenhouse–Geisser epsilon where
appropriate. Post hoc comparisons (contrast analyses) were
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
Pre Post
Heart rate (bpm)
Feedback
F : HR during pre- and postfeedback conditions. refers to
statistically signicant comparisons (𝑝 < 0.05).
applied to the data. Bonferroni test was applied for multiple
comparisons.
3.1. Intrasubject Analysis. A rst step of analysis was intended
to calculate the general trend of peripheral indices during
the task by means of three repeated measures ANOVAs with
feedback (: pre, post) and block (, each block of task) as
repeated factors applied to SCL, SCR, and HR dependent
variables.
e ANOVA applied to HR measures showed a signicant
main eect for feedback (𝐹1,23 =.;𝑝 < 0.05;𝜂2= 0.21)
with higher HR before (M = ., SD = .) than aer (M
= ., SD = .) the feedback (see Figure ). For what
concerns SCL and SCR, no signicant results emerged.
3.2. Intersubject Analysis. A second step of analysis consisted
in calculating the synchronization indices by correlational
coecients applied to the data for each autonomic index
(SCL, SCR, and HR), within each couple of subjects (see []
for the procedure; see also [, , ] for dierent approach).
According to these indices, the subsequent third step of
analysis was nalized to test the statistical signicance of
independent factors on these correlational indices by using
repeated measures ANOVAs which included independent
factor feedback (: pre, post) and block ().
For what concerns HR coecient data, no signicant
dierences in synchrony were found. Considering SCL data,
instead, a signicant main eect for feedback (𝐹1, 11 =.,
𝑝 < 0.05,𝜂2= 0.46) showed increased SCL synchrony
coecients aer (M = ., SD = .) than before (M = .,
SD = .) the feedback (see Figure ).
For what concerns SCR data, instead, a signicant inter-
action eect was found for feedback ×block (𝐹3,33 = .,
𝑝 < 0.05,𝜂2= 0.25). Post hoc comparison showed that in
block  synchrony of SCR was signicantly (𝑝 < 0.05)higher
(M=.,SD=.)thanblock(M= −.07, SD = .) and
block  (M = −0.04,SD=.;𝑝 < 0.05)(seeFigure).
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0.1
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
Pre Post
SCL synchrony
Feedback
F : Pearson’s coecients of SCL intersubject indices as a func-
tion of feedback manipulation. refers to statistically signicant
comparisons (𝑝 < 0.05).
0.2
0.1
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
Pre Post
SCR synchrony
Feedback
Block 1
Block 2
Block 3
Block 4
F : Pearson’s coecients of SCL intersubject indices as a
function of feedback ×block manipulation. refers to statistically
signicant comparisons (𝑝 < 0.05).
4. Discussion
By using a hyperscanning paradigm, the present research
analyzed a joint action focusing on the autonomic response
during a cooperative task which reinforced the positive
outcomes of the intersubjective action. Two dierent orders
of analysis permitted highlighting some main important
eects: intrasubject analyses were conducted in a way to
assess participants’ general physiological state during dier-
ent phases of bond construction. en, intersubject analyses
have been performed in a way to assess couples’ synchrony by
autonomic indices across the task. Specically, synchrony of
autonomic variables was considered during the steps of pro-
gressive reinforcing conditions in response to an attentional
task.
For what concerns intrasubject analysis, higher HR
was found before the feedback, together with decreased
values aer the social reinforce. Cardiovascular modica-
tions usually reect metabolic adjustment to environmental
demands. Generally speaking, cardiac acceleration is related
to increased stress and autonomic arousal []. erefore,
this result could be justied by considering two main expla-
nations: a cognitive and an emotional one. For what concerns
the cognitive one, the rst part of the task could be related
to higher cognitive and behavioral demand. Interestingly,
previous research [] revealed that a high cognitive load
has itself the power to induce physiological arousal. For
instance, Fibiger and colleagues [] reported higher cardiac
output during a mental arithmetic task. Similarly, Turner
and Carroll [] described heart rate increases during mental
arithmetic and a video game. Cardiovascular responses have
also been found to be sensitive to the level of diculty
in several cognitive tasks, including, for example, Raven’s
matrices [], and sentence comprehension []. Similarly,
both heart rate and general metabolic rate increased with
greater cognitive load of a working memory task. Such
results seem to conrm the hypothesis that the rst part
of the task could have been characterized by a higher level
ofcognitivedemandintheattempttosynchronizevisual,
attentive, and behavioral responses. However, considering the
emotional hypothesis, higher HR in the rst blocks could
be generated by higher arousal deriving from the social
dynamic.Infact,therequesttosynchronizeandtoadopt
common strategies with a stranger could be uncomfortable
and stressing for participants. In this case, increased HR may
be interpreted as a ght-ight response related to avoidant
behaviors. In fact, it has been proved that, during a stressful
condition, the presence of a stranger is associated with
increased cardiovascular reactivity, while the presence of a
friend can reduce it []. Accordingly, the HR decrease aer
the reinforce could be indicative of a less arousing condition,
possibly attributable to a dierent, closer perception of the
other mate.
Concerning, instead, intersubject analysis, increased syn-
chrony in electrodermal activity was observed aer the feed-
back. Indeed results showed heightened SCL synchronization
in the second half of the task and a modulation of SCR
also across blocks, with increased peripheral synchronization
aer the social feedback, but also an exponential increasing
also within the second half. Such results suggest the presence
of an increased pattern in peripheral synchronization aer
the social reinforcing that could signal increased engagement.
In fact, as previously discussed, research on autonomic
synchrony revealed that the covariation between individuals
in their physiological indices can reveal insights about the
quality of their interaction []. For example, synchrony
of electrodermal indices has been associated with couples’
aectiveexchange[,],tothequalityofsocialinter-
actions [, ], as well as to dyadic gaming experience
[] and regulatory behavior during therapy [, ]. More
importantly, it has been considered as a key marker of social
engagement []. Previous applications of these methods to
assess the quality of interaction referred to mother-infant
early interactions and psychotherapy research. For example,
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in a study by Ham and Tronick [] based on a still-
face paradigm, skin conductance (SC) concordance corre-
lated with behavioral synchrony. Considering psychotherapy
research, instead, a study by Marci and colleagues [] inves-
tigated skin conductance modulation as a potential marker of
therapist’s empathy. Results showed that clients and therapists
had signicantly more positive social-emotional responses
during high autonomic concordance. us, it is possible to
assume that in the present study the social manipulation did
actually enhance social engagement and bonding. In fact,
as pointed out by both SCL and SCR, coregulation of auto-
nomic activity was enhanced aer the social manipulation.
Also, SCR revealed an exponential increased synchronization
within the second half of the task, reaching the maximum
level in the last block. e present result can be explained
by considering the distinct functional role of SCL and SCR
measures: in fact, since SCR detects the rapid uctuations of
event-related responses, it could also be more sensitive to the
trial-feedback proposed throughout the dierent blocks.
Considering previous hyperscanning research on coop-
eration with neural coupling, similar and parallel dynamics
could be observed. For example, functional near-infrared
spectroscopy (fNIRS) was applied to record subjects’ brain
activity during the same dual task performed in the present
work []. fNIRS results revealed an increased brain activity
and higher synchronization over the prefrontal cortex (PFC)
aer the feedback. Moreover, a signicant prefrontal brain
lateralization eect emerged, with the le hemisphere being
more involved in the second part of the task, in line with
the perception of a positive social dynamic. Such results are
crucial since the involvement of prefrontal areas has been
associated with social exchange, such as perspective taking
and theory of mind [], but also during the suppression
of selsh behavior [] and the commitment in signicant
relationships []. us, aer receiving a positive feedback
about the synchrony of the couple, increased connectivity
emerged in areas related to empathy and bonding and,
importantly, in the suppression of self-centered behaviors in
favorofacommongoal.ecoherencebetweentheseareas
was not present before the social reinforce.
However,somecautionshouldbepaidwheninterpreting
our ndings: in fact, other previous work on autonomic
coupling highlighted how an increased linkage could derive
from dierent, opposite, social, and emotional dynamics. For
example, Levenson and Gottman [] found greater phys-
iological linkage in distressed couples, which also showed
negative aect. Analogous results have also been found
by Kaplan et al. [] in two dierent studies where they
compared physiological linkage between small groups com-
posedofpeoplewholikedordislikedeachother.Results
reported signicant correlations in skin conductance within
the groups with “dislike” dynamics. us, even if our ndings
have been framed within a context of positive emotions and
social bonding, based on our specic experimental paradigm,
this issue could be better explored in future research.
5. Conclusions
To summarize, the present results permitted exploring auto-
nomic coupling in dyads of subjects creating a social bond in
real-time by cooperating in an attentional task presented as
a couple game. Results allowed highlighting the presence of
two main results, one related to a general increased arousal
andHRduringtherstpartoftheparadigm,withoutthe
social reinforce, for participants considered individually. e
second one deals with increased autonomic coupling during
the second part, which involves the social reinforce, for
participants considered within the dyad, and seems to be
characterized by increased synchrony. Such results encourage
the use of hyperscanning techniques to assess emotional
coupling in ecological and real-time paradigms with very easy
and less expensive methods.
Nonetheless, some limitations could also be addressed to
thepresentwork:rstofall,thenumberofcouplesshouldbe
increased in a way to improve statistical analyses at the couple
level.
In second instance, dierent computation methods, such
as linear and nonlinear predictive models [, , ], can
also be applied, especially when dealing with complex data,
including multiple physiological measures. For example, by
applying time-series analysis [], it is possible to control
autocorrelation problems by calculating the amount of vari-
ance of the physiological index, net to each subject’s own
variance. In addition, they allowed inferring if and how
physiological linkage could predict aect and other measures
of dyadic bonding in real life, such as marital satisfaction [].
Moreover, a comparison condition could be added, for
example, about competition, in order to explore the presence
of distinct patterns of synchronization.
Finally, some behavioral measures could be introduced to
help clarifying the emotional and social nature of cooperative
interactions. In fact, physiological linkage per se is not
sucient to provide a complete interpretation of our ndings
in terms of positive/negative valence. Since such measures
have already been considered in previous research on neural
coupling with respect to performance and explicit, subjective
variables (see, e.g., [, , ]), their introduction would be
desirable in other future work on autonomic synchrony.
Also, subjective factors including participants’ person-
ality and attitudes, as well as dyadic synergy, could be
considered to group dyads according to dierent levels of
engagement and to explore the subjective attitudes to act
jointly.
Conflicts of Interest
e authors declare that they have no conicts of interest.
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... This paradigm has experimented with participants who mostly have face-to-face or side-by-side interaction with each other and their conjoined behavioral analysis is measured in terms of the tasks assigned. Decision making tasks (Jahng et al., 2017), certain verbal and visual cue tasks (Reindl et al., 2019), and emotion monitoring (Nummenmaa et al., 2014;Balconi and Vanutelli, 2017;Vanutelli et al., 2017;Santamaria et al., 2019), fall under this paradigm. These studies are done under similar yet divergent experimental setups each catering to its objectives. ...
... This paradigm has experimented with participants who mostly have face-to-face or side-by-side interaction with each other and their conjoined behavioral analysis is measured in terms of the tasks assigned. Decision making tasks (Jahng et al., 2017), certain verbal and visual cue task (Reindl et al., 2019), and emotion monitoring (Nummenmaa et al., 2014;Balconi and Vanutelli, 2017;Vanutelli et al., 2017;Santamaria et al., 2019) fall under this paradigm. ...
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The study of brain-to-brain synchrony has a burgeoning application in the brain-computer interface (BCI) research, offering valuable insights into the neural underpinnings of interacting human brains using numerous neural recording technologies. The area allows exploring the commonality of brain dynamics by evaluating the neural synchronization among a group of people performing a specified task. The growing number of publications on brain-to-brain synchrony inspired the authors to conduct a systematic review using the PRISMA protocol so that future researchers can get a comprehensive understanding of the paradigms, methodologies, translational algorithms, and challenges in the area of brain-to-brain synchrony research. This review has gone through a systematic search with a specified search string and selected some articles based on pre-specified eligibility criteria. The findings from the review revealed that most of the articles have followed the social psychology paradigm, while 36% of the selected studies have an application in cognitive neuroscience. The most applied approach to determine neural connectivity is a coherence measure utilizing phase-locking value (PLV) in the EEG studies, followed by wavelet transform coherence (WTC) in all of the fNIRS studies. While most of the experiments have control experiments as a part of their setup, a small number implemented algorithmic control, and only one study had interventional or a stimulus-induced control experiment to limit spurious synchronization. Hence, to the best of the authors' knowledge, this systematic review solely contributes to critically evaluating the scopes and technological advances of brain-to-brain synchrony to allow this discipline to produce more effective research outcomes in the remote future.
... These synchronization patterns can take the form of a behavioral synchrony, for example at the level of facial or body movements Mayo & Gordon, 2020), but also at the level of autonomic signals such as breathing, electrodermal activity, heartbeat, and so on (Feldman et al., 2011;Levenson & Gottman, 1983;McAssey et al., 2013;Vanutelli et al., 2017Vanutelli et al., , 2018. Working, learning, or even making simple actions is modulated by the mere presence of others. ...
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In the last 25 years, the field of neuroscience has seen exponential growth due to technological advances, which have not only allowed for collecting more accurate data, but also for addressing a variety of innovative studies for human development understanding. Neurofeedback (NF), and particularly Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) applications, are among the most promising methods, since they enable individuals to interact with a computer by using their brain activity to learn implicitly and train some specific cognitive and affective functions. These applications proved to be suitable for many different fields, from research to clinical practice. However, NF was used only in individual settings, with participants interacting with a computer, while more ecological and complex phenomena could be better explored in interactive contexts. In the present work, we propose that the future of BCI provided NF may lie in the development of interactive settings where two or more participants can be informed about their inter-brain synchrony to train and reinforce them towards enhanced joint interactions and promote learning and empowerment. We propose that BCI methods should move to brain-X-brain-computer interfaces (B 2 CI). In this new protocol, that we called "hyperfeedback," brain signals coming from two people involved in a joint setting are processed so to provide a compound feedback. The possible applications of such a paradigm are discussed.
... Cognitive information feedback was found to improve overall workload balance and drive adaptive task sharing (Dorneich et al., 2017), and to increase team engagement and information exchange (Tausczik & Pennebaker, 2013). Additionally, the provision of functional validity information yielded increasing effects on team performance Vanutelli et al., 2017). ...
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Complex work in teams requires coordination across team members and their technology as well as the ability to change and adapt over time to achieve effective performance. To support such complex interactions, recent efforts have worked toward the design of adaptive human‐autonomy teaming systems that can provide feedback in or near real time to achieve the desired individual or team results. However, while significant advancements have been made to better model and understand the dynamics of team interaction and its relationship with task performance, appropriate measures of team coordination and computational methods to detect changes in coordination have not yet been widely investigated. Having the capacity to measure coordination in real time is quite promising as it provides the opportunity to provide adaptive feedback that may influence and regulate teams’ coordination patterns and, ultimately, drive effective team performance. A critical requirement to reach this potential is having the theoretical and empirical foundation from which to do so. Therefore, the first goal of the paper is to review approaches to coordination dynamics, identify current research gaps, and draw insights from other areas, such as social interaction, relationship science, and psychotherapy. The second goal is to collate extant work on feedback and advance ideas for adaptive feedback systems that have potential to influence coordination in a way that can enhance the effectiveness of team interactions. In addressing these two goals, this work lays the foundation as well as plans for the future of human‐autonomy teams that augment team interactions using coordination‐based measures.
... La sincronización se refiere a un patrón de fenómenos fisiológicos que se producen tanto por el SNC como por el periférico, que modulan la interacción de dos o más personas. Las personas tienden a sincronizarse espontáneamente con otras personas en situaciones de humor, tanto con personas conocidas como con extrañas, incluso cuando ellas no tienen acceso visual entre sí, lo que se ha entendido como un indicador de la cercanía social (Carter, 2014;Wood, 2016;Vanutelli, et al., 2017;Papasteri et al., 2020), que podría verse influido cuando se comparten memes a través de redes sociales. ...
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Durante la pandemia por COVID-19, se incrementó el uso de las terapias virtuales y el acompañamiento terapéutico a través de redes sociales. Una de estas estrategias fue el uso del humor a través de memes. El humor, tiene una amplia gama de efectos positivos significativos en el bienestar emocional y las relaciones interpersonales. Este artículo de reflexión, se propone analizar el concepto de meme, sus antecedentes como herramienta terapéutica, la relación entre memes, humor y la expresión humana de la risa, el impacto de estos sobre el cortisol y la oxitocina, las consecuencias positivas al compartirlos y las estrategias para elegir un meme que puede ser terapéutico.
... In particular, interpersonal attunement will be assessed by using the hyperscanning approach, an experimental methodology that allows, based on simultaneous recording of behavioural and physiological responses from different agents involved in a joint task or a social exchange, the computation of interagents synchronization and inter-brain coupling metrics mirroring the level of social attunement [25,26]. The hyperscanning technique has already proved to be a reliable and valuable way to explore the efficiency and quality of interpersonal relations and complex social exchanges, both in laboratory and ecological settings such as workplace [26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33]. ...
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The digitalization process for organizations, which was inevitably accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, raises relevant challenges for Human Resource Management (HRM) because every technological implementation has a certain impact on human beings. Between many organizational HRM practices, recruitment and assessment interviews represent a significant moment where a social interaction provides the context for evaluating candidates’ skills. It is therefore relevant to investigate how different interaction frames and relational conditions affect such task, with a specific focus on the differences between face-to-face (FTF) and remote computer-mediated (RCM) interaction settings. In particular, the possibility of qualifying and quantifying the mechanisms shaping the efficiency of interaction in the recruiter-candidate dyad—i.e. interpersonal attunement—is potentially insightful. We here present a neuroscientific protocol aimed at elucidating the impact of FTF vs. RCM modalities on social dynamics within assessment interviews. Specifically, the hyperscanning approach, understood as the concurrent recording and integrated analysis of behavioural-physiological responses of interacting agents, will be used to evaluate recruiter-candidate dyads while they are involved in either FTF or RCM conditions. Specifically, the protocol has been designed to collect self-report, oculometric, autonomic (electrodermal activity, heart rate, heart rate variability), and neurophysiological (electroencephalography) metrics from both inter-agents to explore the perceived quality of the interaction, automatic visual-attentional patterns of inter-agents, as well as their cognitive workload and emotional engagement. The proposed protocol will provide a theoretical evidence-based framework to assess possible differences between FTF vs. RMC settings in complex social interactions, with a specific focus on job interviews.
... These studies showed that (1) PL can be driven by a shared environment and (2) PL can predict team performance. In addition, studies have found that both cooperative and competitive conditions give rise to PL among stranger dyads, which highlights the importance of context when interpreting PL (Chanel et al., 2012;Strang et al., 2014;Vanutelli et al., 2017Vanutelli et al., , 2018. In a recent effort to understand the interactive influence of such contexts, Danyluck and Page-Gould (2019) found that parasympathetic covariation predicted affiliation. ...
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The present study explores physiological linkage (i.e., any form of statistical interdependence between the physiological signals of interacting partners; PL) using data from 65 same-sex, same ethnicity stranger dyads. Participants completed a knot-tying task with either a cooperative or competitive framing while either talking or remaining silent. Autonomic nervous system activity was measured continuously by electrocardiograph for both individuals during the interaction. Using a recently developed R statistical package (i.e., rties ), we modeled different oscillatory patterns of coordination between partner's interbeat interval (i.e., the time between consecutive heart beats) over the course of the task. Three patterns of PL emerged, characterized by differences in frequency of oscillation, phase, and damping or amplification. To address gaps in the literature, we explored (a) PL patterns as predictors of affiliation and (b) the interaction between individual differences and experimental condition as predictors of PL patterns. In contrast to prior analyses using this dataset for PL operationalized as covariation, the present analyses showed that oscillatory PL patterns did not predict affiliation, but the interaction of individual differences and condition differentially predicted PL patterns. This study represents a next step toward understanding the roles of individual differences, context, and PL among strangers.
... Although we propose a role for each affective dynamic within the MASS framework, these dynamics are not mutually exclusive. For example, cooperation generates shared emotional experiences as well as autonomic coupling (Vanutelli et al., 2017), identifying a role for affective synchrony in mutualism. Reactive exibility is likely linked to social status via trustworthiness: perceived trustworthiness is higher for higher status individuals (Blue et al., 2020) and trustworthiness is associated with affective exibility (Slepian & Carr, 2019). ...
Chapter
Primates have developed a unique set of complex drives for successful group living, yet theorists rarely contemplate their taxonomy and how such drives relate to affective dynamics fundamental for group success. Affective dynamics and drive fulfilment exert mutual influence on one another, ultimately collectively promoting or undermining survival. We first identify six core benefits of group living common among both humans and other animals, and from this foundation we propose three broad social drives that have evolved to preserve or enhance group living benefits: (1) Mutualism comprises cooperation, reciprocity, trust, and fairness; (2) Affiliation comprises assimilation and belonging, whereby one aims to fit into the group through adherence to group norms and ideologies; (3) Status-Seeking is represented by a drive to build one’s value in the group and acquire differential access to mates and other resources. We identify affective dynamics that facilitate each social drive: (1) Reactive flexibility involves qualitative shifts in affect in response to shifting goals, which facilitates mutualism; (2) Affective synchrony is the reproduction of another individual’s emotions in oneself and facilitates social affiliation; (3) Regulatory flexibility facilitates status-seeking through a broad repertoire of regulatory approaches during strategic behavioral pursuits. Finally, we posit that fulfilling Mutualism, Affiliation, and Status-Seeking (MASS) drives enhances the benefits of social living and supports development of fundamental affective dynamics.
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(FULL-TEXT PDF: https://rdcu.be/cNsl5) ---------- When individuals share interpersonal connections, such as the bond between a mother and child or between a therapist and their client, they often exhibit measurable coordination of some physiological response patterns during their interactions known as interpersonal physiological synchrony (IPS Butler, 2011; Palumbo et al., 2016; Tscacher & Meier, 2019). However, as there is no single definition of IPS in the literature, researchers across fields have not established a standardized method for its study. This paper outlines methodological considerations that researchers should take into account when designing studies of IPS. Due to the inherent temporal component of synchrony analyses, we direct particular focus to the issue of measurement timing. Synchrony is described across multiple physiological processes, including electrodermal skin activation, cardiac function, respiration, and neural oscillatory activity, and we make specific recommendations for each. Across physiological measures and analytic strategies, we recommend that when determining an experimental timeframe in which to isolate periods of dyadic IPS, researchers should account for the timing of both the biological systems of interest and the psychological processes theorized to underlie their activity in that particular context. In adopting this strategy, researchers can ensure that they capture all of the fluctuations associated with a psychological process of interest and can add to the growing body of literature examining physiological correlates of interpersonal bonds.
Article
Gestural communication allows providing information about thoughts and feelings, characterizing face-to-face interactions, also during non-verbal exchanges. In the present study, the autonomic responses and peripheral synchronization mechanisms of two individuals (encoder and decoder) were recorded simultaneously, through the use of biofeedback in hyperscanning, during two different experimental phases consisting in the observation (watching videos of gestures) and reproduction of positive and negative different types of gestures (affective, social and informative) supported by linguistic contexts. Therefore, the main aim of this study was focused on the analysis of simultaneous individuals' peripheral mechanisms during the performing of complex joint action, consisting of the observation (watching videos) and the reproduction of positive and negative social, affective, and informative gestures each supported by a linguistic script. Single-subject and inter-subject correlation analyses were conducted to observe individuals' autonomic responses and physiological synchronization. Single-subject results revealed an increase in emotional arousal, indicated by an increase in electrodermal activity (skin conductance level - SCL and response - SCR), during both the observation (watching videos) and reproduction of negative social and affective gestures contextualized by a linguistic context. Moreover, an increase of emotional engagement, expressed by an increase in heart rate (HR) activity, emerged in the encoder compare to the decoder during gestures reproduction (simulation of gestures). Inter-subject correlation results showed the presence of mirroring mechanisms, indicated by an increase in SCL, SCR, and HR synchronization, during the linguistic contexts and gesture observation (watching videos). Furthermore, an increase in SCL and SCR synchronization emerged during the observation (watching videos) and reproduction of negative social and affective gestures. Therefore, the present study allowed to obtain information on the mirroring mechanisms and physiological synchronization underlying the linguistic and gesture system during non-verbal interaction.
Article
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Background Cooperation and competition were compared in the present study. Brain correlates (electroencephalography, EEG frequency band, delta, theta, alpha, and beta) and hemodynamic measure of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS, O2Hb) were acquired during a joined cooperative (Experiment 1) or competitive (Experiment 2) task. Subjects were required to match each other’s cognitive performance (cooperation) or to make better than others (competition) in terms of accuracy (error rate, ER) and response time (RT). In addition, a personality trait measure (behavioral activation system, BAS) was used to distinguish subjects based on their rewarding attitude. Self-perception of social ranking and real performance were considered in response to subjects’ performance (that was artificially manipulated to show an increasing or decreasing profile during the task). Results An increased left prefrontal cortical (PFC) responsiveness was found for subjects who had higher BAS rating in case of both cooperation and competition conditions. Moreover, subjects with higher BAS ratings showed greater frontal left activity during the cooperative task. These subjects also concomitantly perceived an increasing in social ranking and improved their performance. Conclusions Present results demonstrated that some trait components (BAS) and cooperative condition induce a positive self-representation in term of ranking and a best way to perform the task, as underlined by self-perception and cognitive outcomes. Indeed the higher BAS trait proved to be related with the representation of higher social ranking and with the perception of improved cognitive outcomes, with also a significant increased left PFC activity in cooperative contexts.
Article
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Cooperation is a construct within social cognition that requires both self-perception and the comprehension of others' actions. In the case of synchronized activities the adoption of common strategies is crucial, but this process can be strongly influenced by those variables. In fact, self-perceived efficacy within the social exchange can affect the motivational components toward the creation of synergic actions. Thus, what happens when our performance is efficient or inefficient during cooperation? This question was answered in the present study where we compared behavioral performance and neural activation across different conditions where subjects received an external feedback assessing a good or a poor outcome during a cooperative game. The request was to synchronize responses in a way to achieve good cooperation scorings. Results showed that the behavioral performance was affected by feedback valence, since the negative feedback induced a significant worse performance in contrast to the positive one, which significantly increased performance. For what concerns neural activation, data from functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) showed a specific lateralization effect with the right DLPFC recruited in the case of negative feedback, and an opposite left-sided effect in the case of a positive feedback. Findings were interpreted by proposing that the inefficient condition could be similar to a competitive context since the perception of a failed joint action could have frustrated the cooperative attitude and the use of joint strategies.
Article
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In the present study, the social ranking perception in competition was explored. Brain response (alpha band oscillations, EEG; hemodynamic activity, O2Hb), as well as self-perception of social ranking, cognitive performance, and personality trait (Behavioral Activation System, BAS) were considered during a competitive joint-action. Subjects were required to develop a strategy to obtain a better outcome than a competitor (C) (in term of error rate, and response time, RT). A pre-feedback (without a specific feedback on the performance) and a post-feedback condition (which reinforced the improved performance) were provided. It was found that higher-BAS participants responded in greater measure to perceived higher cognitive performance (post-feedback condition), with increased left prefrontal activity, higher ranking perception, and a better real performance (reduced RTs). These results were explained in term of increased sense of self-efficacy and social position, probably based on higher-BAS sensitivity to reinforcing conditions. In addition, the hemispheric effect in favor of the left side characterized the competitive behavior, showing an imbalance for high-BAS in comparison to low-BAS in the case of a rewarding (post-feedback) context. Therefore, the present results confirmed the significance of BAS in modulating brain responsiveness, self-perceived social position, and real performance during an interpersonal competitive action which is considered highly relevant for social status.
Article
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Research of interpersonal neural synchronization (INS) using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) hyperscanning is an expanding nascent field. This field still requires the accumulation of findings and establishment of analytic standards. In this study, we therefore intend to extend fNIRS-based INS research in three directions: (1) verifying the enhancement of frontopolar INS by natural and unstructured verbal communication involving more than two individuals; (2) examining timescale dependence of the INS modulation; and (3) evaluating the effects of artifact reduction methods in capturing INS. We conducted an fNIRS hyperscanning study while 12 groups of four subjects were engaged in cooperative verbal communication. Corresponding to the three objectives, our analyses of the data (1) confirmed communication-enhanced frontopolar INS, as expected from the region's roles in social communication; (2) revealed the timescale dependency in the INS modulation, suggesting the merit of evaluating INS in fine timescale bins; and (3) determined that removal of the skin blood flow component engenders substantial improvement in sensitivity to communication-enhanced INS and segregation from artifactual synchronization, and that caution for artifact reduction preprocessing is needed to avoid excessive removal of the neural fluctuation component. Accordingly, this study provides a prospective technical basis for future hyperscanning studies during daily communicative activities.
Article
Purpose: Human life is connoted by sophisticated interactions that involve not only single individuals, but larger social groups composed by members interacting each other. Cooperation secures a benefit to all the people engaged as well as important behaviors like helping, sharing, and acting prosocially. But what happens when the joint actions are not effective? Materials and method: In the present study, we asked 24 participants paired in 12 dyads to cooperate during an attentional task in a way to synchronize their responses and obtain better outcomes. In addition we tested inter-brain and cognitive strategy similarities between subjects. Then, we frustrated their strategies by providing false feedbacks signalling the incapacity to create a synergy, which was reinforced by a general negative evaluation halfway through the task. The effects of the feedback inmodulating subjects behavioural performance and brain responsiveness were explored by means of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Results: Results showed a worsen performance after the negative feedback in the form of longer reaction times and a specifc pattern of brain activation involving th dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the superior frontal gyrus. The DLPFC showed increased O2Hb (oxy-haemoglobin) level after the feedback, compatible with the need for higher cognitive effort. In addition, fNIRS measures revealed a decreased inter-brain synchronicity in post-feedback condition for the dyad. Also, the representation of negative emotions in response to failing interactions was signalled by a right-lateralized effect. Conclusions: Results were interpreted at light of available knowledge on perceived self-efficacy and the implementation of common goals and strategies.
Article
The aim of the present study was to investigate the neural bases of cooperative behaviors and social self-perception underlying the execution of joint actions by using a hyperscanning brain paradigm with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). We firstly found that an artificial positive feedback on the cognitive performance was able to affect the self-perception of social position and hierarchy (higher social ranking) for the dyad, as well as the cognitive performance (decreased error rate, ER, and response times, RTs). In addition, the shared cognitive strategy was concurrently improved within the dyad after this social reinforcing. Secondly, fNIRS measures revealed an increased brain activity in the postfeedback condition for the dyad. Moreover, an interbrain similarity was found for the dyads during the task, with higher coherent prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity for the interagents in the postfeedback condition. Finally, a significant prefrontal brain lateralization effect was revealed, with the left hemisphere being more engaged during the postfeedback condition. To summarize, the self-perception, the cognitive performance, and the shared brain activity were all reinforced by the social feedback within the dyad.
Article
Cooperation is usually described as a human tendency to act jointly that involves helping, sharing, and acting prosocially. Nonetheless clues of cooperative actions can be found also in non-humans animals, as described in the first section of the present work. Even if such behaviors have been conventionally attributed to the research of immediate benefits within the animal world, some recent experimental evidence highlighted that, in highly social species, the effects of cooperative actions on others' wellbeing may constitute a reward per se, thus suggesting that a strictly economic perspective can't exhaust the meaning of cooperative decisions in animals. Here we propose, in the second section, that a deeper explanation concerning cognitive and emotional abilities in both humans and animals should be taken into account. Finally, the last part of the paper will be devoted to the description of synchronization patterns in humans within complex neuroscientific experimental paradigms, such as hyperscanning.
Book
Electrodermal activity is one of the most frequently used psychophysiological evaluations in psychology research. Based on the 1992 edition of this work Electrodermal Activity covers advances in the field since the first publication in 1992. The current volume includes updated information on brain imaging techniques such as PET and fMRI, which provide further insight into the brain mechanisms underlying EDA. In addition, this volume is able to describe more reliably hypotheses that have been successfully tested since the first publication. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012. All rights reserved.