Mind, Body, Cultural Evolution Lab

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Inaugural Cultural Evolution Society Conference

Ron presented at the Inaugural Cultural Evolution Society Conference in Jena, Germany.

Read the abstract below and download the presentation.

Synchrony as social bonding mechanism: A review and meta-analysis of experimental and field studies on the effects of synchronous behavior

Ronald Fischer, Reneeta Mogan, Joseph Bulbulia

Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand

All known human groups are known to have rituals that involve synchronized behavior (singing, chanting, dancing, marching, etc.). The most commonly proposed hypothesis for the universality of synchronous behavioral ritual is that it was evolutionary adaptive by bonding groups of unrelated individuals into cohesive groups. We examine these claims. First, we meta-analytically investigated the strength of synchrony on four dimensions of social cognition and behavior: prosocial behavior, perceptions of social bonding, social cognition, and positive affect.  We analyzed a total of 42 independent studies (N = 4,327) in which experimentally manipulated synchronous actions were compared to control conditions in healthy non-clinical samples.  Supporting the general social bonding hypothesis, synchronous actions were associated with increases in all four dimensions.  Synchrony had a medium-sized effect on prosocial behaviors, a small­-to-medium-sized effect on perceptions of social bonding and social cognition, and a small-sized effect on positive affect.  At the same time, the effects were sensitive to scale: synchrony in larger groups increased prosocial behavior and positive affect, but decreased social bonding perceptions and social cognition.  This suggests that distinct process mechanisms (neurocognitive versus affective) might underpin synchrony’s effects. Moving from the lab to the field, synchronous behaviors in real-world groups increase social bonding behaviors in a variety of different cultural settings. We review previous studies and present novel data showing the effects of synchronous behavior on social bonding. Yet, in real-world settings synchrony effects are conditional on power dynamics and meaning created around the behaviors. These effects further explain how cultural evolution may have augmented and fine-tuned basic behavioral bonding processes for maintaining social cohesion and dominance structures across evolutionary time frames.

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