Collaborative Research: Multifrequency coordination in dyads and teams

Project: Research project

Project Details


PROJECT SUMMARY Multifrequency Coordination in Dyads and Teams This three-year project is being conducted to investigate how people coordinate overall performance when each person contributes to that performance at a different tempo, or frequency. This phenomenon, known as interpersonal multifrequency coordination (IMC), occurs spontaneously consider cars in traffic that manage to merge without incident; jazz musicians spontaneously synchronizing across nested rhythms; or complex jump-rope patterns in the game of Double Dutch though it is typically studied under experimentally-induced conditions in the laboratory. To gain insight into the foundations of IMC, the experimental approach in this project contains a blend of laboratory and spontaneous (self-organized) real-world IMC. This is accomplished by extending experimental methods for studying individual multifrequency coordination to both a multifrequency tapping task; novice and experienced Double Dutch teams; and jam bands. A series of experiments have been designed to investigate IMC in dyads and larger teams, motivated by predictions of a formal dynamical systems model of multifrequency coordination, the two-frequency resonsance model. In this project, experiments are conducted to (1) validate and extend the twofrequency resonance model in the context of laboratory IMC, (2) evaluate and inform model predictions with respect to spontaneous IMC in Double Dutch in both controlled and naturalistic settings, (3) drive the models coupling parameter via informational coupling mechanisms specific to laboratory and spontaneous IMC (e.g., via visual, auditory, and cognitive linkages between team members), and (4) identify stable multifrequency patterns and their transitions in spontaneous musical performances (jam sessions). The results of these experiments will extend basic understanding of how people coordinate overall performance, though each person contributes to that performance at a different frequency.


SUMMARY OF PROPOSED WORK People coordinate their actions with one another in many different contexts and in many different ways: Drivers in traffic manage to merge without accident; musicians spontaneously coordinate a variety of nested rhythms in jazz; children coordinate complex jumping and rope patterns in the game of Double Dutch. These examples highlight the human capacity to coordinate behavior and exchange information at different rates to accomplish an overall goal, a phenomenon called interperson multifequency coordination. But how do people accomplish this challenging task? The investigators integrate mathematical theory and the physics of coupled, oscillating systems with perceptual, cognitive, and social psychology to address this question. The investigators test predictions of the mathematical model by having pairs of participants (dyads) coordinate the tapping of their index fingers while listening to different metronome frequencies through headphones. Both performance pattern and pattern stability are measured under different experimental conditions (e.g., speeding up vs. slowing down metronome pacing) to test fundamental model predictions. Experimental manipulations specifically designed to increase or decrease coupling between dyads movements are tested in the context of perceptual (e.g., visual), cognitive (e.g., counting), and social (e.g., partner familiarity) coupling mechanisms. Naturalistic field studies are also carried out to discover how people coordinate across perceptual, cognitive, and social linkages during spontaneous interperson multifrequency coordination. 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 of the most transformative aspects 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 both smaller and larger teams of individuals. The application of a mathematical model used to explain coordination in the physical world to social phenomena has the potential to formally connect commonly-observed, diverse coordination phenomena. From a theoretical standpoint, the studies on coupling mechanisms will shed light on current debates across the dynamical and representational literature concerning how coordination is accomplished across individuals in the absence of a physiological-neural connection. Perhaps the most exciting broader impact of this project is the scientific outreach component, 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. We are requesting supplemental funds on BCS-1255922 to fund one undergraduate student (REU supplement). Those personnel resources will permit us to: (1) add to the training and development of students at the undergraduate level; and (2) expand scientific outreach for the purposes of enhancing participation in science learning and careers in science.
Effective start/end date4/1/1312/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $269,197.00

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