Social bonds are essential for our health and well-being. Music provides a unique and implicit context for social bonding by introducing temporal and affective frameworks, which facilitate movement synchronization and increase affiliation. How these frameworks are modulated by cultural familiarity and individual musical preferences remain open questions. In three experiments, we operationalized the affective aspects of social interactions as ratings of interpersonal closeness between two walking stick-figures in a video. These figures represented a virtual self and a virtual other person. The temporal aspects of social interactions were manipulated by movement synchrony: while the virtual self always moved in time with the beat of instrumental music, the virtual other moved either synchronously or asynchronously. When the context-providing music was more enjoyed, social closeness increased strongly with a synchronized virtual other, but only weakly with an asynchronized virtual other. When the music was more familiar, social closeness was higher independent of movement synchrony. We conclude that the social context provided by music can strengthen interpersonal closeness by increasing temporal and affective self-other overlaps. Individual musical preferences might be more relevant for the influence of movement synchrony on social bonding than musical familiarity.
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