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Physiological synchrony in audiences of live concerts

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Author(s)

  • Wolfgang Tschacher
  • Steven Greenwood
  • Hauke Egermann
  • Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann
  • Anna Czepiel
  • Martin Tröndle
  • Debora Meier

Department/unit(s)

Publication details

JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
DateE-pub ahead of print - 23 Sep 2021
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Entrainment and synchronization play major roles in understanding the emotional effects of music; thus, we were interested in synchronized responses of concert audiences listening to music. A series of three separate public live concerts of the same three pieces (chamber music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Brett Dean, Johannes Brahms) was organized. Based on the notion that aesthetic experiences are embodied, we recorded the physiological signals (heart rate, respiration rate, skin conductance response) of all audience members of the concerts. We expected that the shared musical stimuli would entrain the physiological processes of listeners, which would become synchronized. Such synchrony was assumed to indicate the level of immersion in the music, a part of aesthetic experience, and hence be associated with self-report of music appreciation. Physiological signals of a sample of 99 participants were aggregated per bar of the music. Physiological synchrony was assessed using surrogate synchrony, an established method based on cross-correlations. Surrogate synchrony was applied to all dyads of listeners of each concert. Self-report information was provided by listeners after each piece (scales: Appreciation and Connectedness/Empathizing) and after the concert (scales: Appreciation, Timing, and Inconvenience of Measurements). We found significant audience synchronies in most music pieces. Across the pieces, skin conductance synchrony and respiration rate synchrony were associated with self-reported appreciation. Assessments of inconvenience due to the measurement devices was linked with lowered respiration rate synchrony. We concluded that the approach of audience synchrony constitutes a step toward an objective methodology by which aesthetic experiences of concert audiences can be explored.

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