Why do we tap to that beat?

London, July 10 (IANS) Norwegian researchers have ventured to delve into why people tend to perceive affinities between sound and body motion when experiencing music — and agreed that it is all rooted in human cognition.

Researchers from the University of Oslo explored the theory behind the relationship between musical sound and body movement — the so-called ‘motor theory of perception’.

They explored the relationship between musical sound and body movement — and came up with results that showed these similarity relationships are deeply rooted in human cognition.

The results indicated a fair amount of similarity among the participants’ gestures, particularly between the vertical positioning of their hands and the pitch of the sound, according to the study published by the Journal of New Music Research.

For the study, the participants were played three-second sounds that varied in pitch and other musical qualities and were asked to trace the sounds in the air using motion capture technology.

“Music-related motion — both sound producing and sound accompanying — leaves a trace in our minds and could be thought of as a kind of shape representation, one intimately linked to our experience of the salient features of musical sound,” said Professor Rolf Inge Godoy of the University of Oslo.

In general, some sound features such as rhythm and texture seem to be strongly related to movement while others, such as dissonance, have a weaker sound-motion relationship.

As a result, the researchers intend to focus their future work on researching large-scale statistical sound-motion feature correlations, providing us with more data on sound-motion similarity relationships in all kinds of musical experience.

“The basic notion here is that images of sound-producing and other sound-related motion are actively re-created in listening and in musical imagery, hence the idea that motor theory could be the basis for the similarities between sound and body movement when we experience music,” added Godoy.

Although links between musical sound and motion can be readily observed, the researchers argue that a more systematic knowledge of them is required.

In order to perceive something, one must actively simulate the motion associated with the sensory impressions.

So, when one listens to music, the person tends to mentally simulate the body movements that have gone into producing the sound. Thus the experience of a sound entails a mental image of a body motion.

–IANS

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