Imagine you’re at Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour jamming away to “Anti-Hero” to your heart’s content. Looking over the sea of fellow Swifties, you feel a camaraderie — not just over ex-lovers and grappling with personal insecurities — but of harmony and synchrony.
As it turns out, this synchronous, almost hivemind response to T-Swizzle’s music, or any other artists or musical genres, may be a real phenomenon called induction synchrony.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers in Germany and Switzerland found that concertgoers rocking to the classical beats of famous composers like Ludwig van Beethoven, Brett Dean, and Johannes Brahms had similar physical responses. Their heart rates, how much they sweated, their breathing speeds, and their movements matched up.
Induction synchrony appeared to be connected to personality, with individuals who rated highly for traits like openness and agreeableness more likely to sync up with their fellow audience members. On the other end of the spectrum, folks with personality traits like nervousness and insecurity were less synchronized by the music.
In psychology, there’s an area of study called embodiment research that looks at how our bodies play a role in our social interactions and experiences. Studies have found that your movements, heart rates, and even skin responses tend to unknowingly sync up with those around you. This is similar to mirroring during conversations when you’re matching the tone or body language of the person you’re talking to.
Syncing up doesn’t always come from direct social interaction. It may be triggered by something external, such as a concert. To study the possibility of what the researchers dubbed induction synchrony, they had 132 volunteers divided into three groups listening to three live concerts featuring classical music performed by a string quintet: Beethoven’s Op. 104 in C minor, Brett Dean’s Epitaphs, and Johannes Brahms’s Op. 111 in G major. The listeners wore body sensors, including a respiratory belt and a pulse oximeter, and had their movements captured by overhead cameras. The concerts happened in 2020 in Berlin while social distancing measures were in place due to the pandemic.
Before and after the concerts, the attendees filled out questionnaires about how they felt and their personalities to see if there was any connection between these factors and how their bodies responded to the music.
The data showed grooving to the greats did seem to induce synchrony, especially if you had certain personality traits. People who felt immersed in and emotionally connected with the music had even higher synced heart rates. The participants’ breathing patterns, such as when they took a breath in and out, didn’t appear to sync up, though.
Because of social distancing, participants couldn’t move as freely as they normally would during a concert. The researchers believe the synchrony they observed would be stronger in real life and would carry over to other musical genres.
So the next time you’re headbanging to “Shake It Off” in a crowd, relish in that sweet, sweet synchrony.