Beat Perception and Sociability: Evidence from Williams Syndrome.


Beat perception in music has been proposed to be a human universal that may have its origins in adaptive processes involving temporal entrainment such as social communication and interaction. We examined beat perception skills in individuals with Williams syndrome (WS), a genetic, neurodevelopmental disorder. Musical interest and hypersociability are two prominent aspects of the WS phenotype although actual musical and social skills are variable. On a group level, beat and meter perception skills were poorer in WS than in age-matched peers though there was significant individual variability. Cognitive ability, sound processing style, and musical training predicted beat and meter perception performance in WS. Moreover, we found significant relationships between beat and meter perception and adaptive communication and socialization skills in WS. Results have implications for understanding the role of predictive timing in both music and social interactions in the general population, and suggest music as a promising avenue for addressing social communication difficulties in WS.