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: Analysis code

The files contain the code used to run the data analysis of the study. The study is 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 (United Kingdom) 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 .r files contain code for the primary and secondary analyses, the assumption test for linear mixed-effects models and cumulative mixed-effects models run to confirm the results of the primary analysis. The analysis was conducted in RStudio. Comments have been added to the files to guide readers through the process.
  • 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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