Group-level physiological synchrony and individual-level anxiety predict positive affective behaviors during a group decision-making task

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Joint performance can lead to the synchronization of physiological processes among group members during a shared task. Recently, it has been shown that synchronization is indicative of subjective ratings of group processes and task performance. However, different methods have been used to quantify synchronization, and little is known about the effects of the choice of method and level of analysis (individuals, dyads, or triads) on the results. In this study, participants performed a decision-making task in groups of three while physiological signals (heart rate and electrodermal activity), positive affective behavior, and personality traits were measured. First, we investigated the effects of different levels of analysis of physiological synchrony on affective behavior. We computed synchrony measures as (a) individual contributions to group synchrony, (b) the average dyadic synchrony within a group, and (c) group-level synchrony. Second, we assessed the association between physiological synchrony and positive affective behavior. Third, we investigated the moderating effects of trait anxiety and social phobia on behavior. We discovered that the effects of physiological synchrony on positive affective behavior were particularly strong at the group level but nonsignificant at the individual and dyadic levels. Moreover, we found that heart rate and electrodermal synchronization showed opposite effects on group members' display of affective behavior. Finally, trait anxiety moderated the relationship between physiological synchrony and affective behavior, perhaps due to social uncertainty, while social phobia did not have a moderating effect. We discuss these results regarding the role of different physiological signals and task demands during joint action.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13857
Issue number9
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 09.2021

Bibliographical note

Ilanit Gordon acknowledges funding from the Israel Science Foundation [grant numbers 2096/15, 1726/15] and funding provided by Negotiation and Team Resources under the NTR-INGroup research grant program. Sebastian Wallot acknowledges funding from the Heisenberg programme of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), grant number 442405852

    Research areas

  • electrodermal activity, group interactions, heart rate, interpersonal synchrony, multidimensional recurrence quantification analysis, physiological synchrony
  • Psychology