Many romantics claim they fell in love at first sight. What might happen, then, in a slightly longer period of time? A mere three minutes was all it took for children to feel close to an unknown partner, a team of researchers say.

After playing a simple computer game in unison, pairs of unacquainted 8-year-olds reported feeling a greater sense of similarity and closeness, yet pairs who played the exact same game asynchronously did not report these same feelings, say Dr. Tal-Chen Rabinowitch of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at University of Washington and Dr. Ariel Knafo-Noam, a professor of psychology at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

“Synchronicity is a special form of interaction,” Rabinowitch and Knafo-Noam told Medical Daily in an email. “It can range from completely unintentional and passive to fully intentional and active, but in any case it involves at least some level of sensory-motor interaction between participants.”

Their experiment began when 74 children came to the lab and spent a few minutes side by side in front of a video screen playing a game together. All the children were 8-years-old and all were twins. In every case, each was paired with a previously unknown same-sex boy or girl.

The simple game involved tapping their fingers in response to a soccer ball bouncing on a video screen. Some children tapped in response to synchronous bouncing balls, others tapped out of sync, as seen in the video below:

After the game, the children filled out questionnaires about how similar and close they felt to the other unknown child in their pair. Children in the synchronous group reported a greater sense of similarity and closeness than those children who did not play a game with their partner or those who played the game out of sync. Synchrony, Rabinowitch explained, “is a glue that brings people together — it's a magical connector for people.”

“It is interesting that even implicit and passive synchronous interaction is sufficient to shift social attitudes,” Rabinowitch and Knafo-Noam told Medical Daily. When asked whether the experiment might yield different results if the children were not twins — since twins being twins may have a greater inherent feeling for synchronicity than other children — the researchers said they believed non-twins or only children would respond similarly to the game since the twins showed individual differences in their response levels.

“There is a possibility that on average, twins or children that have many siblings may be more susceptible and sensitive to changes in synchrony than other children (although we are not aware of any evidence for this),” said Knafo-Noam and Rabinowitch, whose past work showed how music lessons build empathy in children. Going forward, Rabinowitch hopes to reveal how synchrony is able to guide and improve social and emotional interactions between humans, keeping us all “in tune.”

Source: Rabinowitch TC, Knafo-Noam A. Synchronous Rhythmic Interaction Enhances Children’s Perceived Similarity and Closeness towards Each Other. PLOS ONE. 2015.