Additional Acting, Music, and Empathy Research

Here are the links to the papers I talked about in class today!

1) Keefe, B. D., Villing, M., Racey, C., Strong, S. L., Wincenciak, J., & Barraclough, N.E. (2014). A database of whole-body action videos for the study of action, emotion, and untrustworthines. Behavioral Research Methods, 46:1042–1051. doi: 10.3758/s13428-013-0439-6.

This paper announces this team’s database of acting videos and lays out some potential studies that they think other researchers can use this database to pursue.  Like I said, I think this is problematic because it belies a fundamental assumption that no one has tested about realistic acting, but it’s still kinda cool if you’d like to take a look.

Keefe et al. (2014)

2) Parsons, C.E., Young, K.S., Jegindo, E., Vuust, P., Stein, A., Kringelbach, M.L. (In Press). Musical training and empathy positively impact adults’ sensitivity to infant distress. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:1440. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01440.

Basically, parents with musical training were better at understanding their infants’ cries than nonmusical parents, and more empathetic people were better at understanding babies’ distress than less empathetic people.  It’s a far cry from establishing any causal link between musical training and empathy, but it’s an interesting parallel that seems to point to a connection on some level.

Parsons et al. (In Press)



Authors’ names here (alphabetical order)

Yale University, Cognition of Musical Rhythm, Virtual Lab (this is your affiliation)



This section introduces your topic and research question and situates it in the larger context of musical experience and music research.

1.1  Introduction

Start with one or two sentences that situate your topic in the larger context of musical experience. Follow with highlighting the particular aspect of musical experience your study aims to investigate, providing all necessary definitions. You can also state your research question (or a series of related questions) in a preliminary form here.

1.2  Previous Research

This section provides a brief summary of previous research that has addressed some aspects of your research question. The summary can be organized topically (grouping sources that have investigated related aspects together) or methodologically (grouping sources that have employed similar methods together). References to specific articles should be given in parentheses, including authors’ last name and publication date (in alphabetical order within the parentheses, if there is more than one).

1.3  Present Research

State your formal (i.e., operationalized) research question here. You may include one or two additional sentences for clarification or details, including the predicted outcome.



This section provides the details of your experimental design as concisely and clearly as possible so that readers can better assess your results. You may include figures to illustrate some aspects of the method (e.g., diagram of procedure, notation of sample stimuli, etc.).

1.1  Participants

Provide some basic information about your population sample (age, gender, musical training). This is the population you can generalize to.

1.2  Stimuli

Describe your experimental materials and how they were constructed. Be as specific as possible: What are the source materials? What are the variables? How many different conditions and trials?

1.3  Task & Procedure

What is the experimental paradigm, i.e., what is the specific task your participants had to perform, including the specific instructions, and how were the materials presented (apparatus, order, type of response, etc.)?

1.4  Data Collection & Analysis

How was the data collected and in what format? What are your measures? How was the data transformed (if applicable)? What kind of statistical tests did you conduct?



This section presents an analysis of your data and basic findings. Begin with some descriptive statistics of your population sample (e.g., gender, age, musical training, etc.). Follow with descriptive and/or inferential statistics based on performance measures. Each analysis will generate one main observation supported by some form of statistical analysis (e.g., comparison of means and standard variations based on one variable, e.g., % correct scores in slow vs. fast tempo). Each result should be accompanied by a well-formed graph and/or table.

1.1 Population Sample

Report descriptive statistics related to your population sample (the population you will be able to generalize to).

1.2  Analysis & Figure 1

Report your first finding and supporting data.

1.3  Analysis & Figure 2

Report your second finding and supporting data.

1.4  Analysis & Figure 3

Report your third finding and supporting data.



This section aims to provide a brief summary of your study and contextualize its results. How do your results inform your original question? What are some of limitations of your method? What is the next step?



References should use current APA style and be well demarcated by indenting all the lines after the first (as exemplified below).

Fidali, B. C., Poudrier, È., & Repp, B. H. (2013). Detecting perturbations in polyrhythms: effects of complexity and attentional strategies. Psychological Research, 77, 183-195.

Poudrier, È. (2009). Local polymetric structures in Elliott Carter’s 90+ for piano (1994). In B. Heile (Ed.), Modernist legacy: essays on new music (pp. 205-233). Farnham, England: Ashgate.

Poudrier, È., & Repp, B. H. (2013). Can musicians track two different beats simultaneously? Music Perception, 30, 361-390.

FINAL STEP: Structured Abstract

A structured abstract is one of a few standard formats used in the publication of conference proceedings. It is a great way to share findings with the community. To facilitate your writing of this abstract, I have prepared a template (posted on this page) that contains the basic instructions on how to do it. You can work directly on the template by posting it on your group project page; a document copy of the abstract is available here.

As each student will be graded individually, it is very important that you subdivide the work evenly between group members and that authors write their names in square brackets at the end of each section they contribute.

Structured abstract must be completed at the latest by Thursday, December 11 (end of Reading period), but as much of the work can be completed in advance of doing the data analysis, you are required to complete the writing of sections 1 and 2 by Thursday, December 4, 11:30 AM (class time).


Upcoming assignments – Updated!

Here are the most pressing tasks at hand:

1. Individual Projects: If you have not posted your re-formulated question and the citations & abstracts of the new sources you have identified on your individual project page yet (as detailed in no. 2, d. of the last assignment post on the “This Week” page), please do so as soon as possible. Students are encouraged to review collegues’ postings and add comments/questions as needed.

2. Group Projects: It is imperative that your survey/experiment on Qualtrics be tested as soon as possible. Most of the data collection will have to happen over the break, so if it is at all possible, put in the final necessary changes and email me the links so that we can run the study within the class. Once you have ascertained that everything is working the way you intend it to and that data is being recorded in a readable format, you can start sending out calls for participation. If you send them to me, I will be happy to pass them along to colleagues at other institutions. (Jordan & Geneviève: Because of the pre-processing involved in your experiment, my advise would be to run this pilot with any of the excerpts you are planning to include. You can replace the sound clips after you make your final choice and then just test the revised version yourself before making it “live”.)

The final deadline for making your study live and sending invitations to participate is Monday, December 1, 11:59 PM. This will give you only a few days to collect data and analyze it if you want to complete your structured abstract by the end of classes on Friday, December 5. Structured abstracts must be completed at the latest by the end of Reading period on Thursday, December 11. Instructions on writing the structured abstract are available here.

Note that much of the writing can be done before all the data is collected and analyzed. Thus, as an incentive, you are required to complete the writing of sections 1 and 2 by Thursday, December 4, 11:30 AM.

Have a nice Thanksgiving!

Reformulated Individual Research Question

Can music be used to augment the naturally empathetic qualities of joint activities?  Does dancing with someone make us more sensitive to their emotional needs?

1) Goldstein, T.R. & Yasskin, R. (2014). Another pathway to understanding human nature: Theatre and dance. In Press. Tinio and J. Smith (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of the Psychology of Aesthetics and the Arts. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Authored by my thesis adviser, this article looks at the performing arts and proposes that researchers examine them from the perspective of cognitive science.  Specifically, her research has a slant towards emotion regulation and empathy, and she discusses the anecdotal and correlational evidence for a positive effect of dance on empathy, while proposing experimental paradigms to examine a potential causal relationship between the two.

2) Witek, Maria A. G. (2009). Groove Experience: Emotional and Physiological Responses to Groove-Based Music. European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, 573-582.

If rhythms can augment empathy between individuals, then a likely mechanism by which this happens seems to be that music’s groove.  Witek analyzed the ability of groove to elicit the same emotional responses across participants, but found something interesting: while each participant was able to identify and report a groove in the music, their evaluations of the music’s affective quality varied greatly.  Perhaps, then, it is not the urge to move (as produced by a groove) that affects our abilities to interpret another’s emotional response.  Perhaps a rhythm that is more consistently “on the beat” is needed to let us “tune in” to those around us.

Defining Groove Amongst Classical Musicians

Based on the work of my literature review, pertaining to groove, along with the vast amount of research that has been carried out by a multitude of academics, (Keil, Janata, Oliver, Witek are just some examples) it has become increasingly clear to me that defining the word “groove” is no simple task. Each individual experiences music in a highly personal way, and based on our tastes, cultural background and musical familiarity, it is no wonder that groove can take on a variety of meanings.

Nonetheless, there seem to be some underlying principles that resurface in the majority of researchers’ investigations, such as music provoking the listener to engage in physical movement, as a way of enhancing the experience and expressing enjoyment.

My interests at this stage are in the realm of groove in classical music, something that doesn’t seem to attract a lot of attention, as colloquially, classical music has been seen as stuffy, or lacking in “style”, something that most people would agree is a necessity for groove to flourish. While I have been somewhat unsuccessful at the moment in finding new source material pertaining to groove in classical music, I believe that there is much for me to learn about how an individual’s taste impacts his/her experience of music. Here are some sources that I believe will set me on the right path for further exploration:

Tiger C. Roholt’s Groove: The phenomenology of musical nuance

Musical nuances are the fine-grained ‘expressive variations’ that are often characterized as contributing to a performer’s interpretation of a musical work. I demonstrate that there are different ways of perceiving a nuance; an inadequate way can block the emergence of a perceptual Gestalt to which a nuance contributes, and thus stand in the way of our grasping the nuance’s musical significance. I criticize Diana Raffman’s account of nuances by arguing that she does not acknowledge that nuances can be perceived in different ways; there is a perceptual way implicit in her work but it is one that is inadequate and prevents the relevant Gestalts from arising. My account of nuances is developed through a detailed account of a Gestalt that is grounded in nuances—the rhythmic phenomenon of groove (the feel of a rhythm). On my account, a groove is a dispositional mind-dependent property of music, one that can only be ‘unlocked’ by means of certain perceptual ways. These ways involve allowing certain timing nuances to be perceptually preserved as ambiguous . In elucidating this perceptual role, I clarify Merleau-Ponty’s ‘perceptual indeterminacy’ by defining a perceptual role I call ‘reverberation.’ I highlight the importance of grooves and nuances in contemporary popular music by invoking two ontological views of musical works; nuance and groovetypes can be properties of classical works, but particular nuances and particular grooves are properties of pop works. These grooves are not merely perceptual qualities, they are pivotal relational properties through which musical elements make their connections. The body movement of listeners is not merely a reaction to rhythm; body movement may influence the way we hear rhythms. I draw both conservative and controversial conclusions regarding this relationship. In drawing the latter, I adapt Merleau-Ponty’s notion of ‘motor intentionality’ to temporal perception, and claim that a certain kind of understanding of a rhythm is activated only when we move to a rhythm’s pulse; this understanding influences the resulting experience. When we move our bodies, our experience of a groove may be qualitatively different than when we do not.

DeFonso, Lenore E. , Johnson, Stephen M. , Rowlett, Mary E. ‘s Does information or involvement increase reported enjoyment of classical music?

Attempted to determine whether reported enjoyment of classical music is affected by having some task that involves one in the music while listening, or by receiving information about the music, as opposed to simply listening. Three groups of participants heard eight short musical excerpts, all programmatic classical music. An Involvement group was asked to imagine a scene or story while listening. An Information group was told the title, composer, and what the music represented. A third group simply listened to the music. All groups then rated the excerpts on several measures. A significant group effect was found for four of the excerpts when pre-experiment experience with classical music was controlled for. The Information group consistently reported liking the excerpts better than did the other two groups. The Involvement group did not show an increase in liking; in fact, their mean ratings for some of the excerpts were lower than the control group. Prior exposure to classical music significantly affected ratings, and there was a significant gender effect for some excerpts. Other factors affecting the results are also discussed, as well as implications of the research for ways to increase people’s liking for classical music.

It is my hope that with the help of these sources, along with other research, that I will gain a deeper understanding of groove in the world of classical music. I am curious to find if there are any consistencies within most classical musicians in how they define/perceive groove, and if this experience of groove is heightened because of their training in the field. Furthermore, I am hopeful to learn more about the actual enjoyment of classical music (if it requires many years of familiarity/training/exposure to be truly appreciated), as it is a current hot topic that classical music’s relevance is rapidly fading.

I intend to carry out this research with readings of scholarly articles, along with conducting a few informal interviews with some classical musicians at the Yale School of Music. One possible method is to gather samples of classical music that I personally deem “groovy” and share these examples with others, asking them to voice their opinions on whether or not this music grooves, and why. I will also hopefully gain some insight as to why classical music might not be an initially obvious choice when looking for music that truly grooves.

Reformulated Research Question

Question: Does movement accompanying an action help to remember that action?

Katinka Dijkstra, Michael P. Kaschak, Rolf A. Zwaan, (January 2007) ‘Body posture facilitates retrieval of autobiographical memories,’ Cognition, Volume 102, Issue 1, Pages 139-149, ISSN 0010-0277,

Abstract: “We assessed potential facilitation of congruent body posture on access to and retention of autobiographical memories in younger and older adults. Response times were shorter when body positions during prompted retrieval of autobiographical events were similar to the body positions in the original events than when body position was incongruent. Free recall of the autobiographical events two weeks later was also better for congruent-posture than for incongruent-posture memories. The findings were similar for younger and older adults, except for the finding that free recall was more accurate in younger adults than in older adults in the congruent condition. We discuss these findings in the context of theories of embodied cognition.”

Bettina Bläsing, Beatriz Calvo-Merino, Emily S. Cross, Corinne Jola, Juliane Honisch, Catherine J. Stevens, (February 2012) ‘Neurocognitive control in dance perception and performance,’ Acta Psychologica, Volume 139, Issue 2,  Pages 300-308, ISSN 0001-6918,

Abstract: “Dance is a rich source of material for researchers interested in the integration of movement and cognition. The multiple aspects of embodied cognition involved in performing and perceiving dance have inspired scientists to use dance as a means for studying motor control, expertise, and action-perception links. The aim of this review is to present basic research on cognitive and neural processes implicated in the execution, expression, and observation of dance, and to bring into relief contemporary issues and open research questions. The review addresses six topics: 1) dancers’ exemplary motor control, in terms of postural control, equilibrium maintenance, and stabilization; 2) how dancers’ timing and on-line synchronization are influenced by attention demands and motor experience; 3) the critical roles played by sequence learning and memory; 4) how dancers make strategic use of visual and motor imagery; 5) the insights into the neural coupling between action and perception yielded through exploration of the brain architecture mediating dance observation; and 6) a neuroesthetics perspective that sheds new light on the way audiences perceive and evaluate dance expression. Current and emerging issues are presented regarding future directions that will facilitate the ongoing dialog between science and dance.”

Grafton, S. T. (2009), ‘Embodied Cognition and the Simulation of Action to Understand Others. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,’ 1156: 97–117. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04425.x

“Understanding the goals or intentions of other people requires a broad range of evaluative processes including the decoding of biological motion, knowing about object properties, and abilities for recognizing task space requirements and social contexts. It is becoming increasingly evident that some of this decoding is based in part on the simulation of other people’s behavior within our own nervous system. This review focuses on aspects of action understanding that rely on embodied cognition, that is, the knowledge of the body and how it interacts with the world. This form of cognition provides an essential knowledge base from which action simulation can be used to decode at least some actions performed by others. Recent functional imaging studies or action understanding are interpreted with a goal of defining conditions when simulation operations occur and how this relates with other constructs, including top-down versus bottom-up processing and the functional distinctions between action observation and social networks. From this it is argued that action understanding emerges from the engagement of highly flexible computational hierarchies driven by simulation, object properties, social context, and kinematic constraints and where the hierarchy is driven by task structure rather than functional or strict anatomic rules.”

Reformulated Questions and New Citations

Question: Can musical rhythmic intervention improve the language skills of those with dyslexia?  Do different types of intervention have different magnitudes of effect?

Additional Sources:

1.) Overy, K. (2006). Dyslexia and Music. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999, 497-505.

The underlying causes of the language and literacy difficulties experienced by dyslexic children are not yet fully understood, but current theories suggest that timing deficits may be a key factor. Dyslexic children have been found to exhibit timing difficulties in the domains of language, music, perception and cognition, as well as motor control. The author has previously suggested that group music lessons, based on singing and rhythm games, might provide a valuable multisensory support tool for dyslexic children by encouraging the development of important auditory and motor timing skills and subsequently language skills. In order to examine this hypothesis, a research program was designed that involved the development of group music lessons and musical tests for dyslexic children in addition to three experimental studies. It was found that classroom music lessons had a positive effect on both phonologic and spelling skills, but not reading skills. Results also indicated that dyslexic children showed difficulties with musical timing skills while showing no difficulties with pitch skills. These apparent disassociations between spelling and reading ability and musical timing and pitch ability are discussed. The results of the research program are placed in the context of a more general model of the potential relationship between musical training and improved language and literacy skills.

2.) Overy, K. (2000). Dyslexia, Temporal Processing and Music: The Potential of Music as an Early Learning Aid for Dyslexic Children. Psychology of Music, 28(2), 218-229.

There is extensive evidence suggesting that the language and literacy problems experienced by dyslexics are caused by deficits in various sensory, cognitive and motor processes. Several theories on the underlying cause of these deficits are converging on the idea that the fundamental problems derive from abnormal neurological timing, or “temporal processing”. It has been proposed that temporal processing ability can be improved through training, and that this will lead to improved language and literacy skills (Tallal et al., 1996). Music training, requiring very accurate timing skills, can offer a medium for the development and improvement of temporal processing ability, and thus may provide a valuable form of extra remediation for dyslexic children. This article reports some preliminary work in this area, which has produced encouraging results. Further research is also outlined.

3.) Overy, K., Nicolson, R., Fawcett, A., Clarke, E. (2003). Dyslexia and music: measuring musical timing skills. Dyslexia, 9(1), 18-36.

Over the last few decades, a growing amount of research has suggested that dyslexics have particular difficulties with skills involving accurate or rapid timing, including musical timing skills. It has been hypothesised that music training may be able to remediate such timing difficulties, and have a positive effect on fundamental perceptual skills that are important in the development of language and literacy skills (Overy, 2000). In order to explore this hypothesis further, the nature and extent of dyslexics’ musical difficulties need to be examined in more detail. In the present study, a collection of musical aptitude tests (MATs) were designed specifically for dyslexic children, in order to distinguish between a variety of musical skills and sub-skills. 15 dyslexic children (age 7–11, mean age 9.0) and 11 control children (age 7–10, mean age 8.9) were tested on the MATs, and their scores were compared. Results showed that the dyslexic group scored higher than the control group on 3 tests of pitch skills (possibly attributable to slightly greater musical experience), but lower than the control group on 7 out of 9 tests of timing skills. Particular difficulties were noted on one of the tests involving rapid temporal processing, in which a subgroup of 5 of the dyslexic children (33%) (mean age 8.4) was found to account for all the significant error. Also, an interesting correlation was found between spelling ability and the skill of tapping out the rhythm of a song, which both involve the skill of syllable segmentation. These results support suggestions that timing is a difficulty area for dyslexic children, and suggest that rhythm skills and rapid skills may need particular attention in any form of musical training with dyslexics. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.