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Mindful : August 2018
Maybe it’s happened to you with a stranger at a party, or with a casual acquaintance at work. If you’re really lucky, it’s happened to you during a job interview, or within minutes of meeting the roommates your college assigned you. You clicked with them. It can happen whether you’re shy or outgoing, whether the topic of conversation is one you’re into or one you’re barely familiar with. But the experience of clicking is unforgettable. Every- thing the other person says resonates with you. Your speech rhythms match. Conversation flows like rushing water, unimpeded by a single awk- ward silence and unruffled by even a moment of annoyance, puzzlement, or misunderstanding: the social equivalent of a flawless, gold-medal ski run. The experience of clicking can seem, in short, near-miraculous...which is just the sort of chal- lenge neuroscientists like. Insinuating that some- thing can’t be explained has the same kind of effect on researchers as waving a red flag in front of a bull. Of course they’re going to hunt for the neurobiological underpinnings of clicking, and 2018 is shaping up to be a banner year for that. If clicking with someone feels like you’re “on the same wavelength,” it turns out there’s a good reason for that. In what’s called “interpersonal synchronization,” people click speechlessly, in an unspoken meeting of the minds about how long to linger before a museum painting or when to get up from the coffeehouse table. Such synchrony occurs when an overheard remark triggers in both of you a simultaneously raised eyebrow, when what you see on your companion’s face reflects the feelings and thoughts inside your own brain. Your body language matches, what catches your attention catches his, you become impatient at the same time about the same things. In a 2018 study of one version of syncing, neuroscientist Pavel Goldstein of the Uni- versity of Colorado Boulder and colleag ues enlisted 22 heterosexual couples, ages 23 to 32, → You Had Me at Hello Why is it that we seem to get along with some people right off the bat? Is it just because you happen to like the same kind of music, or are there deeper reasons to find yourself on the same wavelength? ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sharon Begley is senior science writer with S TAT, a national health and medicine publication. She is also author most recently of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain and Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions (20 17, Simon & Schuster). By Sharon Begley • Illustrations by Edmon de Haro 32 mindful August 2018 brain science