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Convergence of speech rate in conversation predicts cooperation


During conversation, interlocutors coordinate their behavior on many levels. Two distinct forms of behavioral coordination have been empirically linked with affiliation and cooperation during or following face-to-face interaction: behavior matching and interpersonal synchrony. Only the latter form constitutes behavioral entrainment involving a coupling between independent oscillators. We present the first study of the association between spontaneously occurring behavioral coordination and post-interaction economic game play. Triads of same-sexed strangers conversed for 10. min, after which each participant played an unannounced one-shot prisoner's dilemma (PD) toward each co-participant. When dyads had higher language style matching scores (LSM: Gonzales, A.L., Hancock, J.T., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2010). Language style matching as a predictor of social dynamics in small groups. Communication Research, 31, 3-19), the individuals evaluated each other more positively, but they were no more likely to cooperate in the PD. However, when dyads' speech rates (mean syllable duration) converged more strongly from the beginning to the end of the conversation, they were more likely to cooperate in the PD, despite no effect on interpersonal evaluations. Speech rate convergence, a form of rhythmic entrainment, could benefit interlocutors by mutually reducing cognitive processing during interaction. We suggest that spontaneous, temporally based behavioral coordination might facilitate prosocial behavior when the joint cooperative effort is itself perceived as a form of coordination. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

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