Marching into battle: synchronized walking diminishes the conceptualized formidability of an antagonist in men

Daniel M. T. Fessler, Colin Holbrook


Paralleling behaviours in other species, synchronized movement is central to institutionalized collective human activities thought to enhance cooperation, and experiments demonstrate that synchrony has this effect. The influence of synchrony on cooperation may derive from an evolutionary history wherein such actions served to signal coalitional strength to both participants and observers—including adversaries. If so, then synchronous movement should diminish individuals' estimations of a foe's formidability. Envisioned physical size and strength constitute the dimensions of a representation that summarizes relative fighting capacity. Experiencing synchrony should therefore lead individuals to conceptualize an antagonist as smaller and weaker. We found that men who walked synchronously with a male confederate indeed envisioned a purported criminal as less physically formidable than did men who engaged in this task without synchronizing.

  • Received July 25, 2014.
  • Accepted August 6, 2014.
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