Synchrony and the social tuning of compassion

Emotion. 2011 Apr;11(2):262-6. doi: 10.1037/a0021302.


Although evidence has suggested that synchronized movement can foster cooperation, the ability of synchrony to increase costly altruism and to operate as a function of emotional mechanisms remains unexplored. We predicted that synchrony, due to an ability to elicit low-level appraisals of similarity, would enhance a basic compassionate response toward victims of moral transgressions and thereby increase subsequent costly helping behavior on their behalf. Using a manipulation of rhythmic synchrony, we show that synchronous others are not only perceived to be more similar to oneself but also evoke more compassion and altruistic behavior than asynchronous others experiencing the same plight. These findings both support the view that a primary function of synchrony is to mark others as similar to the self and provide the first empirical demonstration that synchrony-induced affiliation modulates emotional responding and altruism.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Movement*
  • Time Factors