ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (4): 639-653.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.00639

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The impact of interpersonal synchronization on autistic children’s cooperative behavior and its intervention promotion

CHEN Yan1,2, LI Jing1,2()   

  1. 1CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2023-08-25 Online:2024-04-15 Published:2024-02-29
  • Contact: LI Jing


The primary goal of cooperation is to integrate into society and is an important component of constructive social interactions. Interpersonal synchronization requires individuals to coordinate their time and activities with one another, which is regarded as the basis of societal evolution. Through interpersonal synchronization, typically developing children can automatically coordinate their individual behavior and create cooperative communication with others. Due to impairments in goal understanding, social monitoring, executive function, and action expectations, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties with interpersonal synchronization. The investigation of interpersonal synchronization and its relationship with social function might shed light on the underlying bases of impaired cooperative behavior in children with ASD.

We discussed the development and application of cooperative skills in both typically developing children and autistic children in this article. Previous research has shown that children with ASD exhibit poor cooperative skills due to their social functioning deficit, although they do not differ from typically developing children in certain cooperative activities involving strategic thinking. There are several possible explanations for impaired interpersonal synchronization in children with ASD. Neural synchronization abnormalities hinder their ability to synchronize their brains with others’; children with ASD have difficulties in organizing timing and keeping up with others; children with ASD lacks kills in athletics, which limits their ability to form motor synchronization. A few studies have implemented interpersonal synchronous therapies to help children with ASD who struggle with social functioning. It was found that interpersonal synchronous intervention can activate the neural system, improve joint attention, increase good emotional experiences, and improve motor perception in autistic children, all of which facilitates cooperative behavior. In addtion, interpersonal synchronization is considered as a potential early diagnostic sign for children with ASD. Therefore, it can also be used as a treatment for early autism intervention.

The major innovations of the present paper are as follows:

1. By analyzing and exploring the ability components involved in the process of cooperation and interpersonal synchronization in children with autism, we found that there are common key ability components between interpersonal synchronization and cooperation, such as joint attention, cognitive empathy, temporal synchronization, motor perception, motor planning, and motor execution. Figure 2 shows the vital components of interpersonal synchronization and cooperation.

2. The current review focused on the three elements of atypical interpersonal synchronization that influence cooperative behavior in autistic children: neuronal synchronization, temporal synchronization, and motor synchronization. We demonstrated how the process of interpersonal synchronization influences cooperative behavior by analyzing the atypical interpersonal synchronization elements in dyadic cooperation in autism (see Figure 3). As time goes by, typically developing children can coordinate themselves and their peers to determine common goals, form interpersonal synchronization, and complete cooperative tasks successfully. However, children with ASD have abnormalities in information input, integration and output, resulting in interpersonal synchronization disorders during cooperation, which is therefore difficult to form a closed-loop cooperation between individuals. Owing to neurophysiological abnormalities, ASD children have difficulties in joint attention and cognitive empathy, which make them hard to identify partners in cooperation and reach agreement with peers on goals sharing. Children with ASD also have difficulties in the fundamental components of interpersonal synchronization, such as time and motor synchronization, which is a challenge for them to carry out joint activities with peer. In addition, from the perspective of environmental factors, the type of task, the ability and cooperation degree of partners, environmental disturbances and social occasions may also affect the cooperative performance of children with ASD.

3. Behavioral synchronization frequently results from neuronal synchronization, which both guides and precedes behavioral synchronization. Through behavioral synchronization training to increase brain synchronization, interpersonal synchronization intervention aims to improve general social abilities. Based on this paper’s analysis of empirical research, interpersonal synchronization interventions have a facilitating impact on cooperative abilities, such as neurophysiology, joint attention, perceptual movement, and pleasant emotions. These findings provide positive evidence that it is possible to encourage cooperative behaviors in autistic children by ways of interpersonal synchrony.

4. The article emphasized the fact that interpersonal synchronization is still limited to straightforward instructions and one-off situations. In order to provide theoretical guidance for stepped interpersonal synchronization intervention in children with ASD, future research should concentrate more on interactive synchronization based on ecological scenarios, from basic scenario instruction synchronization to complex open social scenarios with multiple perceptual interactions.

Key words: interpersonal synchronization, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), cooperation, joint attention

CLC Number: