Exploring biorhythms with The Light Box Experiment

We’re fascinated by biorhythms, that is “a recurring cycle in the physiology or functioning of an organism, such as the daily cycle of sleeping and waking” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. We’re especially interested in the human heartbeat - the first rhythm that comes to mind when most people think about their bodies.

We’ve blogged before on our body’s natural response to external rhythms, including on research into choirs that found that not only can singers harmonise their voices, they can also synchronise their heartbeats.

The tempo of a song can naturally alter our breathing rate and heart rate. And interestingly, it has also been shown that listening to a heartbeat rhythm played over headphones or loudspeakers affects not only an individual’s heart rate, but also their emotional judgements of pictures.

When researching doppel, we wanted to see how far you could push our natural response to rhythm. 

Is it just sound? What would happen if you could feel a rhythm. Or if you could see a rhythm?

As such, we devised a quick experiment. 

We presented participants with four otherwise identical objects exhibiting different rhythms. In the case of this test it was four clear acrylic playing cards of the same suit and number, each with a pulse of light running at different speeds. 

The participants were then asked to sit and study these for 30 seconds before selecting one. If pressed, the examiner simply said that they should pick their favourite and there was no wrong answer.

At the same time, we took their heart rate.

From this we then compared the rhythm of the participants’ selection against their heart rate. 

We carried this out in two different tests. The first was in a quiet location where there were no distractions. To our amazement this test yielded results of 100% of people selecting the rhythm closest to their heartbeat.

We decided to test again but in a café with a much noisier and busy environment. In this test though we still gained results of 75% selecting the closest beat. 

These tests were not perfect, and the position of the beats was not randomised. But even allowing for that, they suggest that people really do feel more affinity for inanimate objects if they share a similar ‘pulse’. And we think that's pretty cool.