Listening to music often is associated with spontaneous body movements frequently synchronized with its periodic structure. The notion of embodied cognition assumes that intelligent behavior does not emerge from mere passive perception, but requires goal-directed interactions between the organism and its environment. According to this view, one could postulate that we may use our bodily movements to help parse the metric structure of music. The aim of this study was to investigate how pulsations on different metrical levels manifest in music-induced movement. Musicians were presented with a piece of instrumental music in 4/4 time, played at four different tempi ranging from 92 to 138 bpm. Participants were instructed to move to the music, and their movements were recorded with a high quality optical motion capture system. Subsequently, signal processing methods and principal components analysis were applied to extract movement primitives synchronized with different metrical levels. We found differences between metric levels in terms of the prevalence of synchronized eigenmovements. For instance, mediolateral movements of arms were found to be frequently synchronized with the tactus level pulse, while rotation and lateral flexion of the upper torso were commonly found to exhibit periods of two and four beats, respectively. The results imply that periodicities on several metric levels are simultaneously present in music-induced movement. This could suggest that the metric structure of music is encoded in these movements.
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