A new study from Bar-Ilan university finds that group drumming stimulates behavioral and physiological synchronization that positively contribute to the forming of social bonds as well as increasing cooperative ability. In essence, people's heartbeats match up when they drum together, increasing the likelihood of social bonding and cooperation.
"We believe that joint music making constitutes a promising experimental platform for implementing ecological and fully interactive scenarios that capture the richness and complexity of human social interaction," says Prof. Avi Gilboa, of the Department of Music, who co-authored the study.
"These results are particularly significant due to the crucial importance of groups to action, identity and social change in our world," Prof. Gilboa said.
In an interdisciplinary study published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports researchers reported that while drumming together, aspects of group members' heart function – specifically the time interval between individual beats (IBI) - synchronized. This physiological synchronization was recorded during a novel musical drumming task that was especially developed for the study in a collaboration between social-neuroscientists and scholars from the Music Department at Israel's Bar-Ilan University.
Throughout the duration of the study, IBI data from 51 groups of three participants was collected. An electronic tempo was presented to the group through speakers, which drummers had to match on individual drumming pads on an electronic drum set shared by the group.
For half the groups the tempo was steady and predictable, thus the resulting drumming and its output were intended to be synchronous. For the other half the tempo changed constantly making it hard to predict and follow, resulting in asynchronous drumming and musical output.
The task enabled the researchers to manipulate the level of behavioral synchronization in drumming between group members and assess the dynamics of changes in IBI for each participant throughout the experiment.
Following this structured drumming task, participants were asked to improvise drumming freely together. The groups with high physiological synchrony in the structured task showed more coordination when drumming in the free improvisation session.
Analysis of the data demonstrated that the drumming task elicited an emergence of physiological synchronization in groups beyond what could be expected randomly. Further, behavioral synchronization and enhanced physiological synchronization while drumming each uniquely predicts a heightened experience of group cohesion. Finally, the researchers showed that higher physiological synchrony also predicts enhanced group performance later on in a different group task.
“Our results present a multi-modal behavioral and physiological account of how synchronization contributes to the formation of the group bond and its consequent ability to cooperate," says Dr. Ilanit Gordon, head of the Social Neuroscience Lab at the university's Department of Psychology and a senior researcher of the university's Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center who led the study together with Prof. Gilboa and Dr. Shai Cohen, of the Department of Music.
"A manipulation in behavioral synchrony and emerging physiological coordination in IBI between group members predicts an enhanced sense of cohesion among group members," he added.