Exploring the reciprocal relationship between empathy & interpersonal synchrony


Persefoni Tzanaki

Persefoni is a PhD student working with Prof. Renee Timmers, Prof. Nicola Dibben and Dr Jennifer MacRitchie. She holds a BEd in Primary School Education (University of Thessaly) and an MA in Psychology of Music (University of Sheffield). Her PhD research focuses on the link between empathy and interpersonal synchrony in musical interactions involving musically untrained adults and children.

Persefoni is also interested in the use of music as a tool to support the rehabilitation and therapy of physical disabilities. Parallel to her PhD, she has been working on a research project evaluating the feasibility of a piano-based occupational therapy programme in improving hand function and quality of life in children with cerebral palsy. The project is funded by the Children’s Hospital Charity in Sheffield and is conducted in collaboration with the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield.

Persefoni's PhD Project

Persefoni's research focuses on the relationship between empathy and interpersonal synchrony and how these processes influence one another in musical interactions between musically untrained adults and children. Utilising mixed-methods approaches, the project investigates significant knowledge gaps in each directionality of the empathy-synchrony link before exploring the possibility that these capacities are connected bidirectionally, enhancing one another in a continuous reciprocal manner. The project is funded by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Sheffield Research Scholarship. 


Timmers, R., Tzanaki, P., & Christensen, J. (2023). Coordinating actions as active agents in a dynamic musical environment: Comment on “Musical engagement as a duet of tight synchrony and loose interpretability” by Tal-Chen Rabinowitch. Physics of Life Reviews, 47, 104-107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plrev.2023.09.020 

Tzanaki, P. (2022). The positive feedback loop of empathy and interpersonal synchronisation: Discussing a theoretical model and its implications for musical and social development. Music & Science, 5. https://doi.org/10.1177/20592043221142715

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