Inter-brain synchrony in teams predicts collective performance

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2021 Jan 18;16(1-2):43-57. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsaa135.


Despite decades of research in economics and psychology attempting to identify ingredients that make up successful teams, neuroscientists have only just begun to study how multiple brains interact. Recent research has shown that people's brain activity becomes synchronized with others' (inter-brain synchrony) during social engagement. However, little is known as to whether inter-brain synchrony relates to collective behavior within teams. Here, we merge the nascent field of group neuroscience with the extant literature of team dynamics and collective performance. We recruited 174 participants in groups of 4 and randomly assigned them to complete a series of problem-solving tasks either independently or as a team, while simultaneously recording each person's brain activity using an electroencephalography hyperscanning setup. This design allowed us to examine the relationship between group identification and inter-brain synchrony in explaining collective performance. As expected, teammates identified more strongly with one another, cooperated more on an economic game, and outperformed the average individual on most problem-solving tasks. Crucially, inter-brain synchrony, but not self-reported group identification, predicted collective performance among teams. These results suggest that inter-brain synchrony can be informative in understanding collective performance among teams where self-report measures may fail to capture behavior.

Keywords: collective performance; group identification; hyperscanning; inter-brain synchrony; teams.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Random Allocation
  • Social Identification
  • Young Adult