If brains come into the world already connected, what exactly are they detecting that allows them to connect with another person?
One answer is rhythm. Human brains develop by working out patterns.
When we can work out a pattern by which the world around us is functioning, then the world becomes predictable.
Predictability makes us feel safe. So human brains are highly attuned to detecting patterns, or more specifically the rhythms by which events function.
For example, they detect patterns in when they are likely to get responses from someone else, in how fast that happens, and in the emotional state of the person responding. That rhythmic pattern becomes the ‘beat’ of a relationship.
We learn whether it is safe to vary that beat, say by teasing another person, or whether it is not safe to do that, by being fearfully obedient.
It is fascinating to realise that babies experience such social exchanges rhythmically. So the analogy of a dance or a duet makes sense: our interactions with the world are musical.
We can add this insight to the fact that, for the first nine months of development, a human fetes experience a very real rhythm: the cadence of the mother’s beating heart.
Brain development is infused by rhythm, and brains are driven to look for meaning in the rhythms they discover in the world.
This is one explanation of why music and dance are such powerful art forms for human beings.
For more insights into rhythm and connection, see our connected baby guides.
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