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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54682. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054682. Epub 2013 Jan 24.

The influence of body movements on children's perception of music with an ambiguous expressive character.

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IPEM-Dept. of Musicology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


The theory of embodied music cognition states that the perception and cognition of music is firmly, although not exclusively, linked to action patterns associated with that music. In this regard, the focus lies mostly on how music promotes certain action tendencies (i.e., dance, entrainment, etc.). Only recently, studies have started to devote attention to the reciprocal effects that people's body movements may exert on how people perceive certain aspects of music and sound (e.g., pitch, meter, musical preference, etc.). The present study positions itself in this line of research. The central research question is whether expressive body movements, which are systematically paired with music, can modulate children's perception of musical expressiveness. We present a behavioral experiment in which different groups of children (7-8 years, N = 46) either repetitively performed a happy or a sad choreography in response to expressively ambiguous music or merely listened to that music. The results of our study show indeed that children's perception of musical expressiveness is modulated in accordance with the expressive character of the dance choreography performed to the music. This finding supports theories that claim a strong connection between action and perception, although further research is needed to uncover the details of this connection.

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