Magazine article USA TODAY

Why We Tap Our Feet to a Musical Beat

Magazine article USA TODAY

Why We Tap Our Feet to a Musical Beat

Article excerpt

In a paper published by the Journal of New Music Research, Rolf Inge Godoy, professor in the Department of Musicology, and colleagues at Norway's University of Oslo explore the theory behind the relationship between musical sound and body movement. Previous studies have shown that people tend to perceive affinities between sound and body motion when experiencing music. The so-called "motor theory of perception" claims these similarity relationships are deeply rooted in human cognition.

According to the theory, In order to perceive something, we actively must simulate the motion associated with the sensory impressions we are trying to process. So, when we listen to music, we mentally tend to simulate the body movements that we believe have gone into producing the sound. Thus, our experience of a sound entails a mental image of a body motion.

"Music-related motion, both sound producing and sound accompanying, leaves a trace in our minds and could be thought of as a kind of shape representation, one intimately linked to our experience of the salient features of musical sound," says Godoy. …

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