Fans of electronic music know this well: as soon as the DJ turns on the bass, the crowd gets carried away and responds by accentuating the dance steps. But to what extent is this influence conscious?
The researchers took a closer look at the relationship between bass and dance through a life-size experiment during a concert.
The results, published Monday in the scientific journal Current Biology, show that participants danced nearly 12% more when very low frequencies were played discreetly in addition to music.
The public “was not aware of these changes, but nonetheless directed their movements,” summed up David Cameron, neuroscientist and lead author of the study, AFP.
Thus, these results confirm the “special relationship” between bass and dance, which has so far been observed primarily anecdotally.
At parties, “people tend to turn up the bass,” said a researcher at McMaster University in Canada, himself a drummer. And in all cultures, it’s mostly “low-frequency instruments like the bass guitar or drums that set the pulse for the music.”
“But what we didn’t know was if it was possible to dance with the bass more?” he explained.
The experiment, carried out in Canada, took place in the LIVElab, a building that doubles as a concert hall and research lab.
About 60 people – out of about 130 who turned out to the concert of the electronic musical duo Orphx – agreed to wear a headband with a sensor that records their movements in real time.
Then, during the concert, the researchers periodically switched on and off special very low-frequency speakers.
The scientists confirmed—using a questionnaire filled out by the participants after the concert and a separate experiment—that these frequencies were indeed inaudible. This method made it possible to isolate the effect of the bass, protecting it from the influence of other factors, such as knowledge or ignorance of the piece being played.
– Intuitive –
“I was impressed with the effect,” said David Cameron.
According to him, two hypotheses could explain why basses make us dance so much. On the one hand, they could stimulate the tactile system (skin) as well as the vestibular system, more commonly referred to as the inner ear.
However, the connection between these systems and the motor system in the origin of movements is very close. First of all, it is intuitive because it does not go through the frontal lobes of the brain.
Thus, this stimulation can give “a little boost to the motor system and add some energy and strength to the movements,” suggested the researcher, who wants to test this hypothesis in future experiments.
As for the big question of why people dance at all, the mystery remains.
“Rhythm has always interested me, and especially what makes us move, despite the lack of an obvious function,” David Cameron notes.
The various theories put forward often imply the idea of social cohesion.
“When we synchronize with others, we feel connected to them,” the researcher emphasized. “It allows us to feel better as a group and therefore function better as a group: to be more efficient and contribute to peace.”
No offense to dissatisfied neighbors: the bass, therefore, in the end, too, could help soften morals.