Behavior matching in multimodal communication is synchronized

Max M Louwerse, Rick Dale, Ellen G Bard, Patrick Jeuniaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

225 Citations (Scopus)


A variety of theoretical frameworks predict the resemblance of behaviors between two people engaged in communication, in the form of coordination, mimicry, or alignment. However, little is known about the time course of the behavior matching, even though there is evidence that dyads synchronize oscillatory motions (e.g., postural sway). This study examined the temporal structure of nonoscillatory actions-language, facial, and gestural behaviors-produced during a route communication task. The focus was the temporal relationship between matching behaviors in the interlocutors (e.g., facial behavior in one interlocutor vs. the same facial behavior in the other interlocutor). Cross-recurrence analysis revealed that within each category tested (language, facial, gestural), interlocutors synchronized matching behaviors, at temporal lags short enough to provide imitation of one interlocutor by the other, from one conversational turn to the next. Both social and cognitive variables predicted the degree of temporal organization. These findings suggest that the temporal structure of matching behaviors provides low-level and low-cost resources for human interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1404-1426
Number of pages23
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior
  • Language
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Reaction Time
  • Speech
  • Time Factors


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