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Disciplines > Communication > Diffusion > Synchrony

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People act together, almost as one, in all kinds of situations. They move, behave and often think very much as one. It may seem as if they are reading each others' minds as there is no apparent leader as they synchronize what they are doing.

They also tend to make similar choices, copying one another and following fashion. Synchrony is hence a mechanism by which diffusion happens. As people feel more connected around a particular action, they follow one another and act as a crowd.


People walking together will often tend to fall into step, synchronizing their legs and stepping at the same time. This has caused problems with footbridges, where resonances have been set up which weaken the structure.

Runners in a long race tend to bunch up and run together until just before the final sprint. They even pace and swing their arms together.

Crowds at football matches will roar and stand up together. They even join in with a Mexican wave.

People will sing together, picking up the notes from others. By and large, they will also sing in tune together.


We have a natural tendency to bond with others, joining identities and acting as one. This includes movement and even thinking.

People do not magically do things at the same time. However, when they are sensitive to one another, they pay close attention and will quickly follow others, making it seem as if they started together. This often happens subconsciously.

Synchronization is more likely when there is repeated actions, such as walking or running. In such cases, if the intrinsic frequency of repetition is comfortable, then people will join more easily.

People will synchronize more easily if there is higher coupling strength, when they are more closely connected together. This comes from various motivations that increase the attention they pay to one another.

People in a long race have good reason to synchronize together (and hence have higher coupling strength), as dropping behind can make catching up harder and running on ahead can tire the person out earlier. Running together sets a pace and seems to help people run further. This is one reason why training is often done in groups or with a single partner to 'keep you going'.

A similar effect happens with animals as crickets all chirp together and many others run with synchronous movement.

In persuasion, building rapport is important to create a bond with the other person so that when you move, they are inclined to move with you. And when you say something, they are also inclined to agree with you. Watching for others in synchrony with you is hence a good indication that they have bonded with you and will follow your lead.

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