Music has through the ages bonded different human civilizations and cultures. Even newborns and those suffering from dementia respond to music. We listened to music when we were born with lullabies and at graduation at weddings and funerals. There is something about music that brings people together and connects us as a community. It seems that humans are naturally wired for music. But how does music strengthen social bonds?
Music Brings Us Together
Before we invented the ability to record music for individual listening and enjoyment, music was performed publicly. To be able to listen to music, people had to perform in front of a live audience and this coming together helped provide a social bond and interaction that have helped our early ancestors survive.
Performing music together required cooperation and for us to synch our efforts to produce a pleasing sound. Research has shown that this act of playing music in a group helps us develop positive social feelings towards those whom we are synchronizing with, even if they may not be in the same room. Coordinating musical movement with another person releases the pleasure chemical endorphins in the brain. Playing in a band or singing together in a choir definitely requires cooperation and working together develops trust between people.
Music Increases Empathy
Music has been found to activate many areas of the brain. It includes helping us understand what others are thinking and feeling and to predict what they might do. This skill is termed “theory of mind” by social scientists and is related to empathy.
In a study, scientists hooked participants up to a piece of music they were told was either composed by a human or by a computer. When participants believed that the music was composed by a human, their “theory of mind” cortical network lit up, but it did not when they thought the music was made by a computer. This suggests that the brain does not only process music but listens to music to understand the intention of the musician.
In another study, a group of primary school-aged children was involved in musical games with other children for an hour a week in an academic year. Another two control groups of same-aged children received either no games or games with the same purpose but instead of music, they were involved in drama or storytelling.
At the end of the study, the children were measured for empathy scores. The group exposed to music had a significantly higher score, suggesting that music has a strong influence in empathy development.
Music Increases Social Bond
Think of the time when you were in school singing the national anthem with your schoolmates and teachers in the morning. Or when the anthem is played at the Olympics. The music increases our sense of belonging and reminds us of our cultural roots and safety toward the group we belong to.
In our own social world, we tend to talk more and think better of someone who shares the same musical preference as we do. Studies have shown that people associate musical taste holding certain values. It also influences how we think others will get along. Research has shown that social cohesion is higher among families and peer groups who listen to music together. Even in societies where interdependence is less valued, social cohesion between groups is stronger with the sharing of music. This strongly shows music as a social glue that binds people together.
Music has also been used for aggressive and negative aims. Music has been used to bond groups such as neo-Nazis and encourages violent actions as well. This tells us that music is like a language where listeners can be influenced by the composer’s intentions and thoughts. It can be passed on from generation to generation creating loyalty and a sense of continuity to a tribe.
Knowing the potentials of music as a strong social communication tool, we can learn to use it responsibly. Ritmo Music Studio offers music lessons in Singapore. Come check out the lessons we offer and learn to jam with your friends or family for a tighter bond.