Entrainment has been studied in a variety of contexts including music perception, dance, verbal communication, and motor coordination more generally. Here we seek to provide a unifying framework that incorporates the key aspects of entrainment as it has been studied in these varying domains. We propose that there are a number of types of entrainment that build upon pre-existing adaptations that allow organisms to perceive stimuli as rhythmic, to produce periodic stimuli, and to integrate the two using sensory feedback. We suggest that social entrainment is a special case of spatiotemporal coordination where the rhythmic signal originates from another individual. We use this framework to understand the function and evolutionary basis for coordinated rhythmic movement and to explore questions about the nature of entrainment in music and dance. The framework of entrainment presented here has a number of implications for the vocal learning hypothesis and other proposals for the evolution of coordinated rhythmic behavior across an array of species.

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