Rowing together: Interpersonal coordination dynamics with and without mechanical coupling

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Although most research on interpersonal coordination focuses on perceptual forms of interaction, many interpersonal actions also involve interactions of mechanical nature. We examined the effect of mechanical coupling in a rowing task from a coupled oscillator perspective: 16 pairs of rowers rowed on ergometers that were physically connected through slides (mechanical coupling condition) or on separate ergometers (no mechanical coupling condition). They rowed in two patterns (in- and antiphase) and at two movement frequencies (20 and 30 strokes per minute). Seven out of sixteen pairs showed one or more coordinative breakdowns, which only occurred in the antiphase condition. The occurrence of these breakdowns was not affected by mechanical coupling, nor by movement frequency. For the other nine pairs, variability of steady state coordination was substantially lower in the mechanical coupling condition. Together, these results show that the increase in coupling strength through mechanical coupling stabilizes coordination, even more so for antiphase coordination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-46
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Movement Science
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2019


  • Joint action
  • Group dynamics
  • Social coordination
  • Physical interaction
  • Perceptual coupling
  • Coordination dynamics
  • Synchrony
  • HKB Model
  • Sport performance

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