Dr Bronwyn Tarr

Bronwyn Tarr

Departmental Lecturer, ICEA

Bronwyn is originally from Namibia, and moved to the UK to read towards two degrees at the University of Oxford, funded by a Rhodes Scholarship. Her academic experience includes an BSc(hons) in evolutionary biology (University of Cape Town), an MSc in environmental sciences (Oxford), and a DPhil (Oxford) in social and evolutionary psychology—focussing on the evolution of dance. She is also trained in fine art, as well as classical ballet, contemporary and Latin dance. Based in Professor Robin Dunbar’s Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group, Bronwyn’s doctoral research combined her passion for dance with her curiosity about human nature and evolution of social behaviours. Her thesis centred on evolutionary theories of our species’ love-affair with music and dance. Working with people in Brazil, Oxford and Barcelona, she has researched how dancing in synchrony acts as a social glue, causing the release of endorphins and the experience of a collective ‘high’.

At ICEA, Bronwyn will be conveying the MSc. Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology Course on 'Evolution of Mind and Culture' and supervising MSc. and Doctoral projects.  She has an ongoing interest in research on music, dance, mutual movement, social bonding and collective joy, and underpinning mechanisms, and is interested in collaborating on related research. 

Selected published papers:

Tarr, B., Launay, J., & Dunbar, RIM. (2016) Silent disco: dancing in synchrony leads to elevated pain thresholds and social closeness. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 37: 343 – 349. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.02.004

Launay, J., Tarr, B., Dunbar, RIM. (2016) Synchrony as an Adaptive Mechanism for Large-Scale Human Social Bonding. Ethology, 122: 779–789. doi: 10.1111/eth.12528

Tarr, B., Launay, J., Cohen, E., & Dunbar, RIM. (2015). Synchrony and exertion during dance independently raise pain threshold and encourage social bonding. Biology Letters, 11. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0767

Tarr, B., Launay, J., & Dunbar, RIM. (2014) Music and social bonding: "self-other" merging and neurohormonal mechanismsFrontiers in Psychology, 5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01096

For a podcast on Bronwyn’s research: 'Dance - it's only human'

For a non-scientific discussion about her research: Oxford Research on 'How to live a happy life'

For a popular science article on a recent research paper: 'The Conversation'

For a public engagement lecture on community, social bonds and dance: Rhodes Retreat: ‘Human nature and community’


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