Undetectable very-low frequency sound increases dancing at a live concert
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Does low frequency sound (bass) make people dance more? Music that makes people want to move tends to have more low frequency sound, and bass instruments typically provide the musical pulse that people dance to1. Low pitches confer advantages in perception and movement timing, and elicit stronger neural responses for timing compared to high pitches2, suggesting superior sensorimotor communication. Low frequency sound is processed via vibrotactile3 and vestibular4 (in addition to auditory) pathways, and stimulation of these non-auditory modalities in the context of music can increase ratings of groove (the pleasurable urge to move to music)3, and modulate musical rhythm perception4. Anecdotal accounts describe intense physical and psychological effects of low frequencies, especially in electronic dance music5, possibly reflecting effects on physiological arousal. We do not, however, know if these associations extend to direct causal effects of low frequencies in complex, real-world, social contexts like dancing at concerts, or if low frequencies that are not consciously detectable can affect behaviour. We tested whether non-auditory low-frequency stimulation would increase audience dancing by turning very-low frequency (VLF) speakers on and off during a live electronic music concert and measuring audience members' movements using motion-capture. Movement increased when VLFs were present, and because the VLFs were below or near auditory thresholds (and a subsequent experiment suggested they were undetectable), we believe this represents an unconscious effect on behaviour, possibly via vestibular and/or tactile processing.
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