Assessing cross-partner associations in physiological responses via coupled oscillator models

Emotion. 2012 Aug;12(4):748-62. doi: 10.1037/a0025036. Epub 2011 Sep 12.


A host of theoretical frameworks suggest associations of physiological signals between two individuals within a romantic relationship. However, few studies have provided empirical evidence of such associations using physiological reactivity from both partners in the dyad. In this study we use measures of respiration and heart rate from romantic partners recorded across three laboratory tasks. We examine the interrelations of each measure between both dyad members using coupled linear oscillators (Boker & Nesselroade, 2002). These models were used to capture oscillations in respiration and heart rate, and to examine interdependence in the physiological signals between both partners. Results show that associations were detectable within all three tasks, with different patterns of coupling within each task. Discussion centers on ways to investigate the synchrony of physiological responses across within relationships, including the promises of and obstacles for doing so.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Courtship
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Respiration*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult