Synchrony in the periphery: inter-subject correlation of physiological responses during live music concerts

Sci Rep. 2021 Nov 17;11(1):22457. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-00492-3.


While there is an increasing shift in cognitive science to study perception of naturalistic stimuli, this study extends this goal to naturalistic contexts by assessing physiological synchrony across audience members in a concert setting. Cardiorespiratory, skin conductance, and facial muscle responses were measured from participants attending live string quintet performances of full-length works from Viennese Classical, Contemporary, and Romantic styles. The concert was repeated on three consecutive days with different audiences. Using inter-subject correlation (ISC) to identify reliable responses to music, we found that highly correlated responses depicted typical signatures of physiological arousal. By relating physiological ISC to quantitative values of music features, logistic regressions revealed that high physiological synchrony was consistently predicted by faster tempi (which had higher ratings of arousing emotions and engagement), but only in Classical and Romantic styles (rated as familiar) and not the Contemporary style (rated as unfamiliar). Additionally, highly synchronised responses across all three concert audiences occurred during important structural moments in the music-identified using music theoretical analysis-namely at transitional passages, boundaries, and phrase repetitions. Overall, our results show that specific music features induce similar physiological responses across audience members in a concert context, which are linked to arousal, engagement, and familiarity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Facial Muscles / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music / psychology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Respiratory Rate / physiology*
  • Young Adult