Lost in the Rhythm: Effects of Rhythm on Subsequent Interpersonal Coordination

Martin Lang*, Daniel J. Shaw, Paul Reddish, Sebastian Wallot, Panagiotis Mitkidis, Dimitris Xygalatas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Music is a natural human expression present in all cultures, but the functions it serves are still debated. Previous research indicates that rhythm, an essential feature of music, can enhance coordination of movement and increase social bonding. However, the prolonged effects of rhythm have not yet been investigated. In this study, pairs of participants were exposed to one of three kinds of auditory stimuli (rhythmic, arrhythmic, or white-noise) and subsequently engaged in five trials of a joint-action task demanding interpersonal coordination. We show that when compared with the other two stimuli, exposure to the rhythmic beat reduced the practice effect in task performance. Analysis of the behavioral data suggests that this reduction results from more temporally coupled motor movements over successive trials and that shared exposure to rhythm facilitates interpersonal motor coupling, which in this context serves to impede the attainment of necessary dynamic coordination. We propose that rhythm has the potential to enhance interpersonal motor coupling, which might serve as a mechanism behind its facilitation of positive social attitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1797-1815
Number of pages19
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number7
Early online date9 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2016


  • Interpersonal coordination
  • Motor coupling
  • Rhythm
  • Social bonding


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