Not complex enough for complexity: Some intricacies of interpersonal synergies theory

Iván Vial, Carlos Cornejo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interpersonal coordination (IC) has become an area of growing interest in the last decades. Despite the accumulated evidence, we still do not have an encompassing explanative framework. However, a serious candidate is the interpersonal synergies theory (IST), a model part of the broader complexity approach. In the present paper, we analyze the suitability of IST as an explanation of IC. IST resolves the cognitivist theories’ difficulties on IC, but it exhibits inconsistencies that diminish its impact. We argue that IST can only fit from an epistemological (not an ontological) interpretation of the notion of emergence. Secondly, IST confuses ‘synergy’ with ‘coordination’, risking mixing explanans with explanandum. Third, as a formal theory, IST obliterates the meaning dimension of human movement. Therefore, it is necessary a more in-depth description of what motor coupling among people means. We argue that attending the vitality dynamics sheds light on the shared meaning implied in coordination.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100914
JournalNew Ideas in Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declare they have no competing interests. The preparation of this article was supported by the Chilean National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development, FONDECYT (Grant number 1181271 ), granted to the corresponding author.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Affect attunement
  • Complexity
  • Interpersonal coordination
  • Shared vitality
  • Synchrony
  • Synergies


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