Scientists Think They've Found What Makes Us Get On To The Dance Floor

Actor John Travolta watches an audience member dance. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

What is it about certain kinds of music that makes us want to move, and why does it feel good?

Science doesn’t have all the answers but a new study suggests we prefer to strut our stuff on the dance floor to beats of intermediate complexity.

UK and Danish scientists surveyed people’s reactions to funk music of varying levels of rhythmic complexity and found that too much complexity, as in improvised abstract jazz, puts us off as do the simplest beats.

Based on the results, the authors suggest that listening to rhythmic drum patterns with a medium degree of syncopation, or the unexpected, elicited a greater desire to move and the most pleasure, particularly for participants who enjoyed dancing to music regardless.

Maria Witek from University of Oxford writes in the study: “Our findings help us understand how certain musical rhythms can stimulate desire for spontaneous body-movement.”

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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