Joint rhythmic tapping elicits distinct emotions depending on tap timing and prior musical training

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Music plays a significant role in human life. It is a form of art and entertainment and a powerful medium for interpersonal interaction. The experience of listening to music is often emotional. Previous research has elucidated many of the mechanisms that effect an emotional response in the listener. In contrast, much less is known about how joint musical engagement impacts emotions. Here we focus on synchronized rhythmic interaction, a fundamental feature of musical engagement. There are theoretical reasons for hypothesizing that synchronized interaction should elicit positive affect among interacting individuals, although empirical studies performed with adults have found little consistent evidence for such an effect. We revisited this question, studying children instead of adults, and used an implicit measure of experienced affect to compare children's responses to synchronized versus asynchronized joint tapping. Unlike previous studies, we distinguished between musically trained and untrained participants, because a background of musical training may be associated with altered emotional sensitivities to rhythmic interaction. We found a striking difference in emotional responses to synchronized versus asynchronized tapping, which strongly depended on musical training background. The untrained children responded to synchrony with more positive affect and less negative affect when compared to asynchrony, in line with theoretical predictions. In contrast, the musically trained children showed low positive affect following both synchrony and asynchrony and more negative affect in response to synchrony rather than asynchrony. These results suggest a possible emotional dissociation between synchronized and asynchronized interpersonal rhythmic interaction that may be influenced by musical training background.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-817
Number of pages10
JournalEmotion
Volume19
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the John Templeton Foundation (to Ian Cross and Tal-Chen Rabinowitch), as well as the GRAMMY Foundation, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Cambridge Overseas Trust, the Cambridge Overseas Research Studentship Award, the Anglo-Israel Association Kenneth Lindsay Scholarship, and AVI fellowships (all to Tal-Chen Rabinowitch). We thank A. Caldwell for help with the research. Development of the MacBrain Face Stimulus Set was overseen by Nim Tottenham and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development. Please contact Nim Tottenham at tott0006@tc.umn.edu for more information concerning the stimulus set.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.

Keywords

  • Children
  • Emotion
  • Musical training
  • Social interaction
  • Synchrony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)

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