Turning Heads on the Dance Floor: Synchrony and Social Interaction Using a Silent Disco Paradigm

Joshua S. Bamford, Birgitta Burger, Petri Toiviainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Music and dance appear to have a social bonding effect, which some have theorized is part of their ultimate evolutionary function. Prior research has also found a social bonding effect of synchronized movement, and it is possible that interpersonal synchrony could be considered the “active ingredient” in the social bonding consequences of music or dance activity. The present study aimed to separate the effects of synchrony from other factors associated with joint experience of dancing by using a “silent disco” manipulation, in which the timing of a musical stimulus was varied within a dyad in a freestyle dance setting. Three conditions were included: synchrony, tempo-shifted (in which the tempo was stretched by 5% for one participant), and phase-shifted (in which the beat was offset by 90 degrees for one participant). It was found that, when participants were listening to music in time with each other, they gave higher subjective ratings of their experience interacting with their partner. Participants also were observed looking towards each other more in the synchrony condition, compared with the non-synchrony conditions. From this, it appears that sharing time may contribute to the social effects of joint dancing, independent of any other effects associated with sharing space on the dancefloor. Avenues for further research, and possibilities using this “silent disco” paradigm, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMusic and Science
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2023


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