Into the Hive-Mind: Shared Absorption and Cardiac Interrelations in Expert and Student String Quartets

Simon Høffding*, Wenbo Yi, Eigil Lippert, Victor Gonzales Sanchez, Laura Bishop, Bruno Laeng, Anne Danielsen, Alexander Refsum Jensenius, Sebastian Wallot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Expert musicians portray awe-inspiring precision, timing, and phrasing and may be thought to partake in a “hive-mind.” Such a shared musical absorption is characterized by a heightened empathic relation, mutual trust, and a sense that the music “takes over,” thus uniting the performers’ musical intentions. Previous studies have found correlations between empathic concern or shared experience and cardiac synchrony (CS). We aimed to investigate shared musical absorption in terms of CS by analyzing CS in two quartets: a student quartet, the Borealis String Quartet (BSQ), and an expert quartet, the Danish String Quartet (DSQ), world-renowned for their interpretations and cohesion. These two quartets performed the same Haydn excerpt in seven conditions, some of which were designed to disrupt their absorption. Using multidimensional recurrence quantification analysis (MdRQA), we found that: (1) performing resulted in significantly increased CS in both quartets compared with resting; (2) across all conditions, the DSQ had a significantly higher CS than the BSQ; (3) the BSQ's CS was inversely correlated with the degree of disruption; 4) for the DSQ, the CS remained constant across all levels of disruption, besides one added extreme disruption—a sight-reading condition. These findings tentatively support the claim that a sense of shared musical absorption, as well as group expertise, is correlated with CS.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMusic and Science
Pages (from-to)1-15
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Cardiac synchrony
  • Expert musicianship
  • Multidimensional recurrence quantification analysis
  • Shared musical absorption


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