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Dr. Yulia Golland: Synchronizing with Others, Social Neuroscience, and the Individual & the Collective

Social Neuroscientist
Dr. Yulia Golland

What does it really mean to be on the same wavelength with someone? Is there any truth to these kinds of metaphors? Dr. Yulia Golland shows that on a certain level - yes there is.

Dr. Yulia Golland is a social neuroscientist who studies interpersonal synchrony. In other words, she studies how people get in-sync with one another. Human beings are inherently social creatures, and we are constantly shaping and being shaped by our social environments. A lot of this communication happens verbally, but the majority of it happens below our conscious radar, on levels that we may not be aware of.

When we interact with someone else, sometimes we can have the feeling that we’re clicking or that we’re on the same wavelength, so to speak. What these metaphors help us describe is that feeling when we feel a sense of rapport and connectedness with the other person. We’ve all had these experiences, but what Yulia does is show that not only do we experience these moments of connectedness subjectively, but she also shows that objectively there are neurological and physiological markers that also become synchronized during such interactions. So, to a certain extent, the saying that “you and I are on the same wavelength” is much more literal than we would have thought.

Yulia and I spoke about the different ways in which this propensity to synchronize with others affects us, and we really got into the good, the bad, and the ugly of interpersonal synchrony. We spoke about the social nature of humans, and how there is no individual without a community around him. The interplay between the individual and the collective is eternal and the boundaries between self and the other are never quite clear. In a sense, we’re immersed in a social network, that network is a part of who we are and we define ourselves based on the social context we’re in. This social nature means that we have evolved to be so sensitive and receptive to the social cues around us that we do this subconsciously and automatically.

I personally love research that takes mysterious phenomena like our propensity to sync up with one another - and grounds it in a secure scientific base of research - and that’s exactly what Yulia does in her research.


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