Attachment & Bio-Behavioral Synchrony in Dyads


Attachment is a social process from the very beginning. Therefore, besides looking at the neural basis of attachment in single person experiments, I am now also employing so called hyperscanning techniques where behavioral performance and particularly brain activity are assessed in two people simultaneously. This allows for measuring bio-behavioral synchrony between individuals as a proxy for their social connection / relationship quality. The social neuroscience technique for this line of research is functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

Bio-Behavioral Synchrony in Adult-Adult Dyads

In a first part of a project carried out at Stanford University, we are currently looking at bio-behavioral synchrony between (young) adult participants while they perform different collaborative, competitive, and independent versions of a reaction time task developed at Stanford University (for a previous publication using the same task, see here). Attachment in both players was assessed with the self-report questionnaire Experiences in Close Relationships revised (ECR-R).

In a second part of the project at Stanford University, we looked at the same task in 8-12 year old children and their mothers (collaboration with Stanford University) – the corresponding paper was published in Neuropsychologia – see here and my publications page. The background and results of this paper can also be further explored in one of my blog posts and coverage by Science Trends. Attachment in children towards their mothers was measured using a child version of the self-report questionnaire Experiences in Close Relationships revised (ECR-RC).

Finally, in a new project at the Max Plank Institute in Leipzig, we will start looking at bio-behavioral synchrony in couples during stress, also including various attachment measures.

Bio-Behavioral Synchrony in Parent-Child Dyads

In the context of our CARE studies, we are assessing bio-behavioral synchrony between 5-year old children and their parents during a collaborative puzzle-solving task, free verbal conversation, and problem solving. Attachment is assessed by means of self-report questionnaires, narrative measures (Adult Attachment Interview and Story Stems), as well as behavioral coding.

A first paper on mother-child bio-behavioral synchrony during a collaborative puzzle-solving task has just been accepted for publication: Nguyen, T., Kayhan, E., Schleihauf, H., Matthes, D., Vrtička, P., Hoehl, S. (2020; available online December 20th 2019). The effects of interaction quality on neural synchrony during mother-child problem solvingCortex, Volume 124, Pages 235-249, OPEN ACCESS. For a summary, see my recent blog post.

More data was/is being acquired in mother-child dyads and father-child dyads within our CARE studies, and will be mentioned here when ready.

More details will be provided here as soon as the results of the above projects become available.