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High-level cognition is often achieved by groups of interacting individuals (Knoblich et al., 2011; Sebanz et al., 2006). Group behavior in joint action (JA) settings is less dependent on isolated individual efforts and more on the ability to coordinate (Goldstone & Gureckis, 2009; Hasson et al., 2012). Insight into the mechanisms underlying successful coordination has important implications for how we understand interpersonal interaction, optimize team performance, and engineer humanlike artificial intelligence systems (Cooke & Hilton, 2015; Guimera et al., 2005; Rebsamen et al., 2010; D. C. Richardson et al., 2007). This study examines coordination in collaboratively improvising jazz musicians. Coordination in jazz music subserves an aesthetic goal: the generation of a collective musical expression, and the expertise of professional jazz musicians lies largely in their ability to coordinate and adapt spontaneously in real-time performance. Professional jazz ensembles thus offer a remarkably sophisticated paragon domain to study the basic properties and limits of our capacity to coordinate with one another.
Successful coordination is difficult to operationalize in freely improvised music, because it is not explicitly clear what the intentions of musicians are. We analyzed rhythmic alignment and tonal consonance because they are basic musical elements, and we were able to operationalize them while imposing minimal musical assumptions (atonal music would be rated low consonance, onset density works for pulsed and nonpulsed music). The goal of participants was to generate compelling music, as they would strive for in a typical performance, but they were not explicitly instructed to synchronize note onsets or produce consonant harmonies. In fact, some level of musical tension and dissonance is typically desired. This being said, we observed robust effects that mutual coupling promoted temporal alignment and emergent tonal consonance overall. We also observed directional effects on these features consistent with the ground-truth unidirectional influence from recording to musician in one-way duets. Furthermore, these results were paralleled in the subjective experience of professional improvisers and naive listeners with no particular background in jazz music, who preferred mutually coupled duos, and correctly inferred leadership roles in both conditions. 2b1af7f3a8