Integrating methods from experimental social psychology and music perception, we tested the hypothesis that when listeners personally like a musician, they will be more inclined to experience his or her music as both provoking movement and as subjectively pleasurable, the two core features of perceived groove. In Experiment 1, participants were exposed to a set of moderately-syncopated, high-groove drum-breaks which they were led to believe were either produced by a relatively likable or unlikable musician. In line with predictions, participants led to find the musician more versus less likable rated the same drum-breaks as more evocative of both the urge to move and of feelings of pleasure. When participants in a follow-up study (Experiment 2) were administered the exact same manipulation of likability, but exposed to highly-syncopated, low-groove drum-breaks, these effects were eradicated, suggesting that the results of Experiment 1 were not merely due to demand characteristics or response biases. Together, these findings support the notion that listeners are more responsive to “participating in the music” when they are relatively motivated to affiliate with the musician(s). Methodological limitations and directions for future research on the social psychological underpinnings of groove are discussed.

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