Scientists Discover ‘Super Synchronizers’ With Enhanced Romantic Attraction

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A recent study published in Communication psychology has found that certain individuals, referred to as “Super Synchronizers,” have a unique ability to synchronize their physiological responses with others in various social and nonsocial tasks. These individuals are perceived as more attractive. This suggests that the ability to synchronize may play a significant role in human romantic attraction.

Physiological synchrony refers to the phenomenon in which the physiological responses of two individuals align or mirror each other during social interactions. This can include synchrony in heart rate, breathing, hormone levels, and other autonomic functions. When two people are in sync, their bodies reflect this harmony through matching rhythms in these various biological processes.

Previous research has demonstrated the importance of physiological synchrony in various social contexts. Studies have shown that synchrony between romantic partners can increase feelings of closeness and relationship satisfaction. For example, partners whose heart rates or breathing patterns are in sync during interactions tend to report higher levels of intimacy and cooperation. Physiological synchrony has also been observed in parent-child interactions.

Despite the previous findings on physiological synchrony, several critical questions remain unanswered, prompting the need for new research. One major gap is understanding whether synchrony actively drives attraction or whether it is merely a byproduct of existing attraction. In other words, do people become more synchronized because they are already attracted to each other, or does increased synchrony itself enhance attraction?

“In my lab, we study the biological mechanisms that glue two individuals together in close bonds. In this study, we wanted to discover a biological mechanism that influences mate choice in humans and how the ability to synchronize can mean fitness,” said study author Shir Atzil, director of the Bonding Neuroscience Lab and assistant professor at Hebrew University.

The researchers first conducted an online experiment to examine the relationship between physiological synchrony and attractiveness. They recruited 144 participants, who were shown a 92-second video of a man and a woman interacting with each other. These interactions were designed to exhibit either high or low levels of synchrony. The high synchrony condition involved actors being attuned to and responding to each other, while the low synchrony condition involved them acting more independently and being less influenced by their partner.

Participants were randomly assigned to watch one of these two types of interactions. After watching the video, participants rated the attractiveness of the man and woman separately and their perceived mutual attraction.

The results showed that participants rated both the actors and their perceived mutual attraction higher in the high synchrony condition compared to the low synchrony condition. This demonstrated that synchrony between individuals during interactions could increase their perceived attractiveness, suggesting that synchrony may play an active role in generating attraction rather than merely being a consequence of it.

Next, the researchers conducted a speed dating experiment to examine the role of physiological synchrony in real-life romantic situations. Forty-eight participants (24 men and 24 women) took part in a series of speed dates. Each participant met four different partners for five-minute dates in a room decorated to resemble a comfortable, homey environment. During these dates, participants wore Empatica E4 wristbands that measured their electrodermal activity, providing a continuous record of their physiological arousal levels.

Before each date, participants rated their initial interest in their partner. After each date, they rated their level of attraction to their partner. These ratings were averaged across all dates to calculate each participant’s individual romantic attractiveness scores. Additionally, the wristband data was used to calculate each participant’s individual electrodermal synchrony scores by calculating the correlation between each pair’s electrodermal activity levels during their dates.

In addition to the speed dates, participants completed a finger-tapping task designed to measure non-social synchronicity. In this task, participants tapped their fingers to the beat of a metronome, allowing researchers to assess their ability to synchronize to an external, non-human rhythm.

The researchers found that some individuals consistently showed higher levels of synchronicity, regardless of their partner or the task. These “Super Synchronizers” were rated as more attractive by their speed dating partners.

Furthermore, there was a significant correlation between an individual’s ability to synchronize in the social context of speed dating and their performance in the nonsocial finger-tapping task. This suggested that the ability to synchronize may be a general trait that influences attractiveness across different types of interactions.

“We found that the ability to synchronize is stable across tasks and partners. Some people are Super Synchronizers, and Super Synchronizers are consistently rated as more attractive. Being sensitive to and attuned to a partner may help foster romantic bonding. This is because synchronized physiological states can improve the regulation of multiple body systems, making interactions more satisfying and suggesting cognitive and evolutionary advantages.”

This study provides compelling evidence that physiological synchrony plays an important role in romantic attraction. However, as with all research, there are some caveats. While the researchers manipulated synchrony in the online experiment, the speed dating experiment relied on naturalistic interactions, making it difficult to definitively establish a causal relationship between synchrony and attraction. Future research could attempt to manipulate synchrony during actual dates to see its effects on romantic interest and long-term relationship outcomes.

Looking ahead, Atzil and her colleagues also plan to conduct additional research to “characterize Super Synchronizers and their neural, behavioral, and physiological profiles.”

The study, “Social and Nonsocial Synchrony Are Interrelated and Romantically Attractive,” was authored by Matan Cohen, Maayan Abargil, and Shir Atzil.
M. Cohen, M. Abargil, M. Ahissar and S. Atzil

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