Doctoral Dissertation

3.11.2018 M.A. Emily Carlson (Facul­ty of Hu­ma­ni­ties and Social Sciences, Musicology)


3.11.2018 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , S212
M.A. Emily Carlson defends her doctoral dissertation in Musicology: "Me, you and the dance: Effects of individual differences and social context on music induced movement".

Opponent Adjunct Professor PhD Jessica Phillips-Silver (Georgetown University Medical Center) and Custos Professor Petri Toiviainen (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.


To dance is usually to dance with someone else. Dance often takes place in social contexts such as a club or party, where individuals’ movements not only reflect their own traits and feelings but can the movements of others in many ways.

The aim of this thesis is to study some of the factors that may affect music-induced movement in social contexts, particularly trait empathy. The thesis also aims to investigate the influence of inherently dyadic features, such as similarity between dance partners, and to explore how entrainment and interaction can be quantified in a free dance movement context using a variety of analytic approaches.

A first analysis of individual dance data from 30 participants found correlations between Big Five personality traits and responsiveness to small changes musical tempo but failed to find a relationship between dispositional empathy and participants’ adjustment to musical tempo. This suggested that, in dance, empathy may more readily manifest interpersonally than individually.

To explore this further, a motion capture study was conducted in which 73 participants were recorded dancing alone and with several partners to music excerpts from eight different genres, which were selected using a novel, data-driven approach to identifying naturalistic stimuli. Kinematic movement features were extracted from these data for comparison with self-report measures of empathy and personality traits.

Subsequent analysis using the Social Relations Model found that partners with greater trait empathy altered their movements more in responses to different partners than those with less empathy, while agreeableness was linked to head movements. A perceptual experiment was then carried out using animations created from data of dyads whose members' whose empathy scores were either both high, both low, or high and low respectively, with 33 participants rating dyads’ level of interaction and similarity.

Analysis showed that dyads combining high- and low-empathy members were rated as interacting more than others. Finally, rated stimuli were analyzed using computational methods, with an aim to develop quantitative descriptions of entrainment. It was found that dyads who were rated as highly interactive moved at more similar periodicities, tended to orient their heads towards each other, and to use their hands significantly more during dance.

Taken together, these results paint a multi-dimensional picture of motoric entrainment and engagement in the dyadic dance setting, providing direction and motivation for further investigation into free dyadic dance movement.