Beyond Synchrony: Complementarity and Asynchrony in Joint Action


A widespread and powerful model of socially interactive behavior is ‘synchrony’ (Jirsa & Kelso, 2004): Numerous studies have thus recently indicated how individuals through social interaction become increasingly entrained on multiple levels from physiology to syntax: through interaction people synchronize their heart rates, their subtle postural sways, their gestures and gaze behaviors, align their lexicon and their syntax. However, emerging scholarship is increasingly attending to many instances in which patterns of complementary and asynchronous actions rather than synchronous ones seem to predict high levels of interpersonal coordination and joint performance. While some activities such as expertly timed rowing may afford interacting agents to synchronize their individual behaviours to reach high levels of joint performance, other types of joint activity – like playing a game of baseball – rather afford complementary actions: i.e. tightly coupled, reciprocal activity derived from different behaviours performed across an extended temporal sequence.

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