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)

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)


Brower, Candace. “A Cognitive Theory of Musical Meaning.” Journal of Music Theory 44.2 (2000): 323. Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale. Web.

A Cognitive Theory of Musical Meaning

This article puts forward a theory of how musical meaning, or metaphor, is created, and relies on two theories from Cognitive Science: that pattern recognition and matching plays a part in thought, and that we map our bodily experiences onto the patterns of other domains.  Thus, through a mix of intra-domain mapping (matching patterns to patterns heard previously in the piece, as well as matching patterns from the piece to patterns conventionally found in music) and cross-domain mapping (matching patterns of music onto bodily experiences, i.e., the idea of strong and weak beats, higher and lower pitches,expansion and contraction, etc.) we create musical meaning.  The author explains the concepts, and then applies them in an analysis of Schubert’s “Du bist die Ruh”.

Escoffier, N., Sheng, D. Y. J., and Schirmer, A. (2010). Unattended musical beats enhance visual processing. Acta Psychologica, 135(2010), pp. 12–16.

Escoffier et al. (2010) investigated whether and how a musical rhythm entrains a listener’s visual attention. Participants were presented with pictures of faces and houses and asked to indicate whether picture orientation was upright or inverted while either silence or a musical rhythm played in the background. In the beat condition, pictures could occur off-beat or on a rhythmically implied, silent beat. Pictures presented without the musical rhythm and off-beat were responded to more slowly than pictures presented on-beat, indicating that musical rhythm both synchronizes and facilitates concurrent processing of visual stimuli.

Escoffier&al_2010_Unattended musical beats enhance visual processing

Knoblich, G., Butterfill, S., and Sebanz, N. (2011). Psychological Research on Joint Action: Theory and Data. In B. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 54, pp. 59-101). Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

This chapter in Ross (2011)’s book reviews current theoretical concepts and empirical findings surrounding coordination and joint action theory in order to provide a structured overview of the state of the field of joint action research.  It distinguishes between planned and emergent coordination. In planned coordination, agents’ behavior is driven by representations that specify the desired outcomes of joint action and the agent’s own part in achieving these outcomes. In emergent coordination, coordinated behavior occurs due to perception–action couplings that make multiple individuals act in similar ways, independently of joint plans.  It seems that either model could be used to analyze the role of musical entrainment, either as facilitating emergent coordination or acting as a nonverbal representation in planned coordination (although an emergent coordination model seems more likely).

2011_KnoblichButterfillSebanz_PLM copy

De Bruyn, L., Leman, M., Moelants, D. (2008). Quantifying Children’s Embodiment of Musical Rhythm in Individual and Group Settings. Miyazaki, K., Hiraga, Y., Adachi, M., Nakajima, Y., and Tsuzaki, M. (Eds.). Proceedings from ICMPC10: The 10th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition. Sapporo, Japan.

These researchers empirically quantified the impact of social interaction on movements made by children while listening and responding to music, investigating the children’s intensity of movement and the amount of synchronization with the beat in two conditions: individual, separated by screens, and social, moving together in groups of four encouraging social interaction. Data analysis showed that there is a social embodiment factor which can be measured and quantified. Furthermore there is also an effect found of the type of music on the gesture response, both in the individual and social context of the experiment.  I find this interesting in that it shows that social interaction can have an effect on music processing; now that the two are linked, I want to explore effects in the opposite direction.

Children’s Embodiment