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The beat goes on: Children’s sensorimotor synchronization to music in a home paradigm

The beat goes on: Children’s sensorimotor synchronization to music in a home paradigm

Presenter Name:Catherine, Tan

School/Affiliation:University of Toronto Scarborough

Co-Authors:Areeba Qureshi, Haley E. Kragness & Laura K. Cirelli


Moving to music is a behaviour exhibited by people all around the world (Nettl, 1999). Though some preliminary movements to music are observed as early as infancy and toddlerhood (Kim & Schachner, 2019; Rocha & Mareschal, 2016; Yu & Myowa, 2021), beat synchronization is not observed until later childhood. Studies of children’s sensorimotor synchronization frequently ask participants to perform relatively constrained and perhaps unnatural tasks like tapping; however, children engage in more free-form behaviours, like dance, fairly regularly. Recent work in our lab found that 3- to 7-year-old’s free dancing reflects the metrical properties of music they’re dancing to, especially in the context of high vs. low-groove music. Yet, whether children’s free dancing abilities are related to abilities in a more traditional sensorimotor synchronization task is unknown. 

In this study, 44 children who had previously participated in a home free dancing study (Kragness et al., 2022) participated in a sensorimotor synchronization task approximately 1 year later. Participants played an online game which required them to tap along to 4 musical excerpts (the same excerpts they had previously danced to) and 4 woodblock trials (60s per trial) that reflected the underlying beat in the music trials. Their tapping was recorded and extracted for analysis using REPP (Anglada-Tort et al., 2022). Preliminary results show that acoustic features influence synchronization and that better metrical correspondence in dancing predicted less deviation in tapping asynchrony approximately one year later. Future research should also consider the influences of musical features (e.g., groove, tempo, emotion) and individual differences (e.g., music training, socio-economic status, culture) on children’s sensorimotor synchronization.

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