Syncopation, body-movement and pleasure in groove music

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Maria Witek
  • Eric F. Clarke
  • Mikkel Wallentin
  • Morten L Kringelbach
  • Peter Vuust

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Faculty of Music, University of Oxford
  • Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University Hospital
  • Center for Semiotics, University of Aarhus
  • The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus/Aalborg


Moving to music is an essential human pleasure particularly related to musical groove. Structurally, music associated with groove is often characterised by rhythmic complexity in the form of syncopation, frequently observed in musical styles such as funk, hip-hop and electronic dance music. Structural complexity has been related to positive affect in music more broadly, but the function of syncopation in eliciting pleasure and body-movement in groove is unknown. Here we report results from a web-based survey which investigated the relationship between syncopation and ratings of wanting to move and experienced pleasure. Participants heard funk drum-breaks with varying degrees of syncopation and audio entropy, and rated the extent to which the drum-breaks made them want to move and how much pleasure they experienced. While entropy was found to be a poor predictor of wanting to move and pleasure, the results showed that medium degrees of syncopation elicited the most desire to move and the most pleasure, particularly for participants who enjoy dancing to music. Hence, there is an inverted U-shaped relationship between syncopation, body-movement and pleasure, and syncopation seems to be an important structural factor in embodied and affective responses to groove.

Bibliographic note

Correction: Syncopation, Body-Movement and Pleasure in Groove Music Published: September 24, 2015


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere94446
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2014