The Role of Spatial Position on Gait Synchronization During Group Movement

Wendy L. Baccus

Advisor: James C Thompson, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: William Kennedy, Eva Wiese

David J. King Hall, #2019
May 08, 2019, 01:00 PM to 03:00 PM


The human predisposition to synchronize bodily movements arises from an ecological need to nonverbally signal social bonds within growing social circles (Dunbar, 2012). Rhythmic coordination is accomplished through motor entrainment and simulation at the intra- and interpersonal levels (Repp & Su, 2013); however, the current field of literature lacks investigation into more than two interacting individuals (Hasson & Frith, 2016).  This dissertation included three experiments with the aim of examining 1) spatial configuration as a means to alter the availability of cues to each individual during a synchronized walking paradigm 2) the impact of fluctuating leadership on group movement synchrony 3) how assigned leadership effects group movement synchrony. Participants were recorded using a motion capture system (NaturalPoint, Corvallis, OR) to study synchrony dynamics of gait measured using a marker on the right and left heel of each participant. Overall group synchrony, dyadic synchrony, and dyadic phase lag were analyzed using linear correlation and a cluster phase quantification method (Richardson, Garcia, Frank, Gergor, & Marsh, 2012). Overall, it was found that group synchrony changes with spatial configuration and that it is highest when participants are in a straight line and moving along straightaways as opposed to turns. Interestingly, when leadership is allowed to fluctuate and the group’s turning behavior is centered on the axis of the individual (rather than the group), group synchrony during turns increased. Assigned leadership decreased overall group synchrony when the “leader” was not in view. Taken together, these experiments reveal the complex nature of group synchrony dynamics and the interplay between leadership roles and spatial position during movement.