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Psychological effects of interpersonal entrainment

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Arild Stenberg.

For thousands of years, humans throughout the world have gathered in groups to sing, chant, and dance together. This keeping together in time as a collective leads to feelings of closeness and similarity, and binds people together in cooperative units. Several theorists have suggested that this process is underpinned by the experience of strong positive emotions arising from moving in time with others. However, psychological studies have largely failed to find an effect of synchrony on positive emotions. I attempt to shed light on this puzzle by presenting a more nuanced empirical account of how synchrony modulates emotional experiences. My findings suggest that (1) interpersonal entrainment amplifies positive emotions oriented towards others but not positive feelings that focus on the self, (2) interpersonal entrainment reduces aversion toward stimuli that are potentially harmful to the self, and (3) synchronous individuals show greater similarity in emotional states in comparison with asynchronous counterparts. These findings indicate that emotions should not be dismissed in the context of interpersonal entrainment. However, to attain a more complete understanding of these emotional effects we need to proceed beyond a valence-based dichotomy. Synchrony transports people from an individual state of mind to a collective one, tuning emotional states in ways that protect and strengthen their connections with one another.

This talk is part of the The Centre for Music and Science (CMS) series.

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