People coordinate their actions with one another in many different contexts and in many different ways: Drivers in traffic manage to merge without accident; people walking on crowded streets usually avoid mishap; musicians coordinate a variety of nested rhythms produced by band members. These examples highlight the human capacity to coordinate behavior and exchange information at different rates to accomplish an overall goal, a phenomenon called interperson, multifrequency coordination. The researchers will study interperson, multifrequency coordination by applying the physics of coupled, oscillator systems to the perceptual, cognitive, and social information inherent in this type of coordination. Pairs of participants (dyads) will coordinate their movements while listening to different metronome frequencies through headphones. Both performance pattern and pattern stability will be measured under different experimental conditions in order to test fundamental predictions of the mathematical model. Experimental manipulations specifically designed to increase or decrease coupling between dyads' movements will be tested in the context of perceptual (e.g., visual), cognitive (e.g., counting), and social (e.g., partner familiarity) coupling mechanisms. Field studies are also planned to discover how people coordinate in naturalistic situations. This sequence of studies is designed to advance basic research on multifrequency coordination in dyads and to extend that research to spontaneous coordination in larger teams.
One important aspect of this project is the extension of experimentally induced multifrequency coordination in the laboratory to real-world settings in which spontaneous multifrequency coordination occurs across teams of individuals. The project also has a significant outreach component, including a visit to a nationally organized competitive youth summer camp, where investigators will collect data on spontaneous interperson, multifreqency coordination and teach campers about coordination science and STEM fields.