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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2012 Feb;141(1):54-75. doi: 10.1037/a0024208. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

Sensorimotor coupling in music and the psychology of the groove.

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1
Department of Psychology, Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis, 267 Cousteau Place, Davis, CA 95618, USA. pjanata@ucdavis.edu

Abstract

The urge to move in response to music, combined with the positive affect associated with the coupling of sensory and motor processes while engaging with music (referred to as sensorimotor coupling) in a seemingly effortless way, is commonly described as the feeling of being in the groove. Here, we systematically explore this compelling phenomenon in a population of young adults. We utilize multiple levels of analysis, comprising phenomenological, behavioral, and computational techniques. Specifically, we show (a) that the concept of the groove is widely appreciated and understood in terms of a pleasurable drive toward action, (b) that a broad range of musical excerpts can be appraised reliably for the degree of perceived groove, (c) that the degree of experienced groove is inversely related to experienced difficulty of bimanual sensorimotor coupling under tapping regimes with varying levels of expressive constraint, (d) that high-groove stimuli elicit spontaneous rhythmic movements, and (e) that quantifiable measures of the quality of sensorimotor coupling predict the degree of experienced groove. Our results complement traditional discourse regarding the groove, which has tended to take the psychological phenomenon for granted and has focused instead on the musical and especially the rhythmic qualities of particular genres of music that lead to the perception of groove. We conclude that groove can be treated as a psychological construct and model system that allows for experimental exploration of the relationship between sensorimotor coupling with music and emotion.

PMID:
21767048
DOI:
10.1037/a0024208
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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