Physical attractiveness elicits more stable interpersonal coordination

Mr Zhong ZHAOa, Dr Robin SALESSEa, Mr Mathieu GUEUGNONa, Prof Richard SCHMIDTb, Dr Ludovic MARINa, Prof Benoit BARDYa

a M2H laboratory Euromov, University Montpellier, Montpellier, France, b Department of Psychology, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachussetts, USA

Introduction: Nowadays, high-technology (utilization of avatars or robots) has been becoming widely used in medical rehabilitation programs. The biggest advantage of the high-tech agents is to help designing individualized rehabilitation plans and saving caregivers’ time. Since previous research in human-human interaction showed that the way individuals interact with others is influenced by the physical attractiveness of the other people (i.e Byrne, London, & Reeves, 1968), the present study aims to investigate whether interpersonal coordination is influenced by the physical attractiveness of virtual agents.

Methods: 34 healthy participants coordinated with a physically attractive virtual agent and a less attractive virtual agent on a Wacom tablet. Agents were shown in a static (picture) or in a dynamic (video) form. Participants were instructed to perform in-phase or anti-phase coordination with the agents at the 100% or 150% of their own preferred frequency. At the same time, a reaction time task (on the agent’s forehead) was answered simultaneously in order to attract participants’ attention to the physical attractiveness of the agent.

Results: Results showed that when coordinating at the preferred frequency, participants showed the most stable motor coordination with the moving attractive agent as compared to other static or moving agents.

Discussion: Our results suggest that it is critical to take into account the physical attractiveness of the agents when using them as a means of medical rehabilitation. Attractive agents can help to foster a more stable coordination, thus motivating patients to adhere more to rehabilitation. Since motivation to perform more physical activity is a major problem causing dropouts from rehabilitation program, it is of vital importance to design physically attractive agent to entrain patients more engaged in the rehabilitation program. Of course, clinical trials are necessary in order to explore whether the finding of the present study could be generalized to patients.


Byrne, D., London, O., & Reeves, K. (1968). Effects of Physical Attractiveness Sex and Attitude Similarity on Interpersonal Attraction. Journal of Personality, 36, 259-271. doi: 10.1111/J.1467-6494.1968.Tb01473.X

Keywords : interpersonal coordination; Physical attractiveness