The social benefits of interpersonal synchrony are widely recognized. Yet, little is known about its impact on the self. According to enactive cognitive science, the human self for its stability and regulation needs to balance social attunement with disengagement from others. Too much interpersonal synchrony is considered detrimental for a person’s ability to self-regulate. In this study, 66 adults took part in the Body-Conversation Task (BCT), a dyadic movement task promoting spontaneous social interaction. Using whole-body behavioural imaging, we investigated the simultaneous impact of interpersonal synchrony (between persons) and intrapersonal synchrony (within a person) on positive affect and self-regulation of affect. We hypothesized that interpersonal synchrony’s known tendency to increase positive affect would have a trade-off, decreasing a person’s ability to self-regulate affect. Interpersonal synchrony predicted an increase in positive affect. Consistent with our hypothesis, it simultaneously predicted a weakening in self-regulation of affect. Intrapersonal synchrony, however, tended to oppose these effects. Our findings challenge the widespread belief that harmony with others has only beneficial effects, pointing to the need to better understand the impact of interaction dynamics on the stability and regulation of the human self.
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