Perceived motor synchrony with the beat is more strongly associated with groove than measured synchrony

Tomas Matthews, Maria Witek, Joseph Thibodeau, Peter Vuust, Virginia Penhune

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The sensation of groove can be defined as the pleasurable urge to move to rhythmic music. When moving to the beat of a rhythm, both how well movements are synchronized to the beat, and the perceived difficulty in doing so, are associated with groove. Interestingly, when tapping to a rhythm, participants tend to overestimate their synchrony, suggesting a potential discrepancy between perceived and measured synchrony, which may impact their relative relation with groove. However, these relations, and the influence of syncopation and musicianship on these relations, have yet to be tested. Therefore, we asked participants to listen to 50 drum patterns with varying rhythmic complexity and rate their sensation of groove. They then tapped to the beat of the same drum patterns and rated how well they thought their taps synchronized with the beat. Perceived synchrony showed a stronger relation with groove ratings than measured synchrony and syncopation, and this effect was strongest for medium complexity rhythms. We interpret these results in the context of meter-based temporal predictions. We propose that the certainty of these predictions determine the weight and number of movements that are perceived as synchronous and thus reflect rewarding prediction confirmations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423–442
Number of pages10
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • beat perception
  • emotion
  • rhythm and timing
  • synchronization
  • expectation


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