Oxytocin improves synchronisation in leader-follower interaction

L. Gebauer, M. A. G. Witek, N. C. Hansen, J. Thomas, Ivana Konvalinka, P. Vuust

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The neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to affect social interaction. Meanwhile, the underlying mechanism remains highly debated. Using an interpersonal finger-tapping paradigm, we investigated whether oxytocin affects the ability to synchronise with and adapt to the behaviour of others. Dyads received either oxytocin or a non-active placebo, intranasally. We show that in conditions where one dyad-member was tapping to another unresponsive dyad-member - i.e. one was following another who was leading/self-pacing - dyads given oxytocin were more synchronised than dyads given placebo. However, there was no effect when following a regular metronome or when both tappers were mutually adapting to each other. Furthermore, relative to their self-paced tapping partners, oxytocin followers were less variable than placebo followers. Our data suggests that oxytocin improves synchronisation to an unresponsive partner's behaviour through a reduction in tapping-variability. Hence, oxytocin may facilitate social interaction by enhancing sensorimotor predictions supporting interpersonal synchronisation. The study thus provides novel perspectives on how neurobiological processes relate to socio-psychological behaviour and contributes to the growing evidence that synchronisation and prediction are central to social cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number38416
JournalScientific Reports
Pages (from-to)38416
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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