The science of socializing: We are made for face-to-face communication; research shows our brains synchronize during a conversation
08/02/2018 // Russel Davis // Views

Recent research published in the Scientific Reports journal reveals that the brain waves of two people may readily match each other once they take part in a conversation. According to researchers at the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL), even normal everyday conversations may spur the brain waves of each speaker to work in unison.

The research team enrolled 15 dyads of people of the same gender, but who were otherwise complete strangers, as part of the study. The groups were separated by a folding screen, which meant that the connection they shared was largely due in part to the communication they established. The dyads were then instructed to read a script and engage in a general conversation taking turns as both speaker and listener.

The scientists performed electroencephalographs (EEGs) to examine the brain activity in the participants. They observed that the oscillations in the participants' brains took place at the same time. According to the research team, the brain waves corresponding to the speaker and the listener appear to adjust based on the physical properties of the sound produced during a conversation. The experts explain that this mechanism creates a connection between the two brains, which in turn work together to allow communication to take place.

"It involves interbrain communion that goes beyond language itself and may constitute a key factor in interpersonal relations and the understanding of language. The brains of the two people are brought together thanks to language, and communication creates links between people that go far beyond what we can perceive from the outside," researcher Jon Andoni Duñabeitia explains in Agencia SINC online.


People's brains also sync by merely being with each other

A study in Current Biology has found that people’s brain waves display similar patterns when they appear to be more engaged with each other. The study has also shown that the brain waves exhibit the same patterns when people are in touch with the world around them. A team of researchers used portable electroencephalogram technology to simultaneously track and record brain activity from an entire class of high school students as part of the study. The scientists monitored the students’ brain activities daily throughout the whole semester.

The researchers also asked the students how they liked each other and their teacher. Likewise, the experts asked the participants how much they liked group activities in general. The scientists performed novel analyses in order to determine how synchronized the students' brains were, and whether they differed with class engagement and social dynamics. (Related: Peoples’ Brain Wave Patterns Mysteriously SYNC UP When They Are Near Each Other, Astonishing New Science Shows.)

“We found that students’ brain waves were more in sync with each other when they were more engaged during class. Brain-to-brain synchrony also reflected how much students liked the teacher and how much they liked each other. Brain synchrony was also affected by face-to-face social interaction and students’ personalities. We think that all these effects can be explained by shared attention mechanisms during dynamic group interactions,” co-lead author Suzanne Dikker tells Science Daily online.

The researchers note that a phenomenon known as neural entrainment may play a central role in brain synchrony levels among the students. “Your brainwaves ‘ride’ on top of the sound waves or light patterns in the outside world, and the more you pay attention to these temporal patterns, the more your brain locks to those patterns. So, if you and the person next to you are more engaged, your brain waves will be more similar because they are locking onto the same information,” Dikker explains.

 Sources include:

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