The University of Sheffield
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Unravelling the effects of empathy on social bonding following interpersonal synchrony through music: a mixed-methods approach: Dataset, interview transcripts and stimuli

This is the anonymised data, interview transcripts and stimuli of the study. The study was part of a PhD project conducted by Persefoni Tzanaki at the Department of Music (University of Sheffield). Supervisors: Prof Renee Timmers, Prof Nicola Dibben and Dr Jennifer MacRitchie.

The Department of Music Ethics Committee at the University of Sheffield approved the study (Reference Number 039236). All experiments were conducted in accordance with the University’s guidelines and relevant regulations.

The manuscript of the study has been submitted for peer review and publication. A link to the paper will be provided when it is published.

  • The dataset (.csv file) contains data from 79 participants who completed the experimental tasks of the study (the data of 1 participant was deleted as they did not consent to have their information shared). The dataset was used in the quantitative analysis and is in a long format, containing data for each participant for both tasks (tapping and observational), thus 24 rows per participant.
  • The .pdf file contains the transcripts of all interviews conducted for the study. 42 interviews were conducted in Greek and 38 in English.
  • Regarding the Stimuli, the videos were used in the observational task, and the audio files in the tapping task. Stimuli is organised in folders per condition.
  • More information about the files can be found in the README file attached.

Abstract of the study:

Interpersonal synchrony, the coordination of movements between individuals, has been extensively associated with strengthening social bonding. However, less is known about contextual or subjective factors amplifying or hindering these effects. This mixed-methods study examined the impact of trait empathy on the intensity of social bonding experienced following synchrony in active musical engagements, extending previous observations related to passive interactions. Through two experimental tasks and post-experiment interviews, we explored empathy’s effects when non-musicians engage actively or passively in musical interactions with background music varying in tempo. The results associated higher trait empathy with increased social bonding following synchrony with a partner. Although not statistically significant, these effects tended to be modality-dependent, i.e. relying on how one engages in musical interactions. Tempo influenced directly the social bonding experience, potentially due to its impact on participants’ mood. Lastly, interview responses revealed that during their musical interactions, participants attributed mental states to their partners, eliciting affiliation even when synchrony was not attained. Our findings support that, in addition to stimulus-driven responses, the synchrony-bonding link relies on top-down processes shaped by individuals’ trait empathy, preferences and type of musical engagement that significantly influence the perception of synchrony and its ability to evoke social affiliation.


Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Sheffield Research Scholarship



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