We have all heard that good communication is the key to relationships, but scientists have recently found surprising evidence to show why this is true.
Studies have shown that when two people communicate with each other, the activity in their brains synchronizes. The scientists showed that when two people talk, they really can be on the same wavelength.
The study by Princeton University neuroscientists, Greg Stephens and Uri Hasson, was the first to look at communication in this way. Previously studies have looked at either speech or speech comprehension separately.
Using an fMRI scanner, the study found that the brain activity of a speaker and listener synchronizing during storytelling. The stronger their reported connection, the closer the neural coupling. However, when the participants fail to communicate effectively, this brain coupling does not occur. Researchers also discovered that the stronger the connection between speaker and listener, the closer their neural activity is synchronized.
In the study, one participant was asked to tell an unrehearsed life story, as if talking to a friend, to the other participant. Scans were done of both the storyteller and the listener. After the experiment, a detailed questionnaire was completed to assess their level of comprehension.
In the subjects where the speaker’s story had resonated with the listener, as assessed by post-scan questionnaires, the brain scans of the participants showed “a complex interplay of neural call and response, as if language were a wire between test subjects’ brains,” according to Wired Science.
The findings support the idea of a “theory of interactive linguistic alignment,” or in layman’s terms, the concept that good communication makes people feel closer to each other.
Hasson explains that when we communicate, we are “sharing the same lexical items, grammatical constructs, and contextual framework.”
For example, Hasson said, when a person asks, “Do you want a cup of coffee?” the listener responds, “Yes, please – two sugars” rather than, “Yes, please put two sugars in the cup of coffee that is between us.”
This fascinating study shows that good communication really can form a close connection between people not just metaphorically but literally in the brain.