Interpersonal Coordination in Computer-Mediated Communication

Interpersonal Coordination in Computer-Mediated Communication

Jamonn Campbell
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch200
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Interpersonal coordination is an overlooked yet fundamental component of human social interaction (Bernieri, Davis, Rosenthal, & Knee, 1994). Bernieri et al. (1994) suggest that human communication is characterized by two forms of interpersonal coordination; interaction synchrony which is focused on the pace and rhythm of communication (e.g. mutual entrainment), and behavioral matching/mimicry which focuses on the co-occurrence or imitation of gross and fine motor movements (e.g. the chameleon effect). These two broad categories account for the majority of ways in which individuals engage in interpersonal coordination during social interactions. One important distinction between the two coordination types is the increased importance that temporal factors play in influencing interpersonal synchronization compared to behavioral mimicry. With mimicry, the matched behaviors occur at identical or closely related time frames; whereas with interactional synchronization, the timing of behaviors varies depending on situational, structural, and group composition factors. This article will first discuss recent theory and research on interpersonal coordination in traditional face-to-face (FTF) contexts, and then we will shift our focus to the emergence and influence of synchronization and mimicry during computer-mediated interactions.

One type of interactional synchronization that has received a great deal of attention is mutual entrainment, which refers to the modification of endogenous temporal rhythms by an external pacer. For instance, the circadian rhythm that dictates our body’s synchronization with the 24-hour day/night cycle would be a biological example of entrainment. In terms of synchronization, mutual entrainment is evident when individuals modify their linguistic patterns (e.g. response frequency, rate, and pace) to match those of a partner, or to accommodate external factors (e.g. temporal constraints) (McGarva & Warner, 2003; McGrath & Kelly, 1983). For example, during typical dyadic interactions, when one person has finished speaking, the second individual is expected to deliver a verbal or nonverbal response within a certain implicitly understood time frame, which will then be reciprocated by the original speaker. This verbal synchronization or rhythm is unique for each social situation and is contingent upon the communicators’ relationships and their environmental constraints. A failure or an inability to synchronize during social interactions can result in miscommunication, frustration, reduced cohesion, ineffective task performance, and poorer decision-making. On the other hand, researchers have demonstrated that effective interpersonal synchronization serves an adaptive function in groups leading to more positive intra-group affect, cohesion, confidence, trust, and enhanced performance on tasks (Blount & Janicik, 2002; Kelly & Barsade, 2001; McGrath & Kelly, 1986; van Baaren et al., 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Immersive Virtual Environments (IVE): Digital environments where users are able to experience computer-generated stimuli by wearing tactile, visual, and auditory hardware.

Mutual Entrainment: The process whereby an endogenous temporal rhythm is altered by a dominant external pacer.

Interpersonal Coordination: The tendency for individuals to implicitly synchronize their behavioral and linguistic communication patterns during social interactions.

Interaction Synchrony: The synchronization of temporal communication patterns (e.g. pace and rhythm) during social interactions.

The Chameleon Effect: Nonconscious mimicry of nonverbal behaviors during social interactions.

Behavioral Matching: The synchronization of physical movements and verbal behaviors during social interactions.

Mutual Entrainment Maintenance (MEM): The persistence of entrained behavior during social interactions in the absence of the original external pacer.

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