New research shows our brains sync up during conversation

When you’re having a great conversation with somebody, it’s easy to feel as if you’re both on the same wavelength—and according to a new study, you actually might be.

Researchers from the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Language recently studied pairs of strangers engaging in conversations together for the first time, taking a look at their cerebral electrical activity as they spoke. As it turned out, the two strangers’ brain waves seemed to synchronize, effectively putting the two people’s brains on the same page, so to speak.

“We can find out if two people are having a conversation solely by analysing their brain waves,” Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, one of the lead researchers of the study, told ScienceDaily. “The brains of the two people are brought together thanks to language, and communication creates links between people that go far beyond what we can perceive from the outside.”

For their study, the researchers measured the cerebral electrical activity of 15 sets of strangers as they took turns listening and speaking. As the conversations unfolded, the two people’s brain waves oscillated at the same time.

Past studies have yielded similar results, showing that our brains are priming themselves to hear what they expect, and working hard to connect with others through communication. One study even found that students in the same class are likely to be “in sync” with the brain waves of their fellow classmates—and those who are more engaged are more likely to have similar electrical activity.

Researchers hope the new findings will eventually be used to help those who struggle with communication. “To be able to know if two people are talking between themselves, and even what they are talking about, based solely on their brain activity is something truly marvellous,” Duñabeitia told ScienceDaily. “Problems with communication occur every day. We are planning to get the most out of this discovery of interbrain synchronization with the goal of improving communication.”

Communicating with people can be a difficult thing to do at times—but it looks like our brains are hard at work to make it as easy an interaction as possible. As it turns out, you really are on the same page sometimes.