Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy” by Eerola and Zentner explores whether infants’ truly engage in rhythmic behavior in the presence of music. Previous developmental studies demonstrated that the youngest age for rhythmic movement emerges only around preschool age (4-8) (Eerola & Zentnera, 2010, p. 5768). This study dug deeper to see if rhythm affects humans at even younger ages.

baby headphones

I was impressed by this study’s methods and analysis because infants would seem to be difficult participant group. Errol and Zentner (2010) wrote, “Infants’ rhythmic movements were assessed by a multi-method approach, involving human coding from the video excerpts and innovative 3D motion-capture technology,” (p. 5768). These video segments of movement were then evaluated by professional ballet dancers for synchronization accuracy. The same video segments were further scrutinized by another set of coders to analyze the duration of infants’ smiles. The segments showed a strong correlation between infants’  synchronization accuracy and the duration of their smiles (Eerola & Zentnera, 2010, p. 5770-5771). 

Limitations included foreign music and laboratory settings effect on infants (Eerola & Zentnera, 2010, p. 5770-5771). Beyonds basic beats and speech, the chosen music showcased complex compositions from Mozart and Saint-Saens. Even with limitations in mind, the results of the study show that infants engage significantly more in rhythmic movement when exposed to music than with speech (Eerola & Zentnera, 2010, p. 5771). 

Eerola and Zentnera’s (2010) wrote, “The findings are suggestive of a predisposition for rhythmic movement in response to music and other metrically regular sounds,” (p. 5771).

The notion that humans have a predisposition to move rhythmically speaks to my literature review on musical engagement. I have been noticing a trend in emotional responses elicited by music, but “Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy” demonstrates an innate connection to rhythm. Perhaps these findings demonstrate a different aspect of identity formation. Rhythm may be shaping an individual even before speech develops. 


Zentner, M., & Eerola, T. (2010). Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(13), 5768-5773.

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