Why do some people have rhythm and others don’t?
Turns out it might not be as binary as having two left feet.
Asked by: Phil Stokes, Quethiock
Psychologists have identified three factors that contribute to differences in people’s rhythmic ability: short-term auditory memory, the ability to sense a regular timing structure in sounds (‘beat sensitivity’) and musical training.
A study of 62 people published in 2012 found that each of these factors was independently correlated with participants’ ability to reproduce a rhythmic beat by tapping it out (music training was also associated with better auditory memory and beat sensitivity).
The research also showed that rather than some people having rhythm and others lacking it, there was a continuous spread of ability among the participants, from low to high.
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Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.
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