Music and the Mind- New Research | Tuned in to Learning Blog

Music and the Mind: New Research on Why We Listen

In a 2013 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers explore what the underlying function of music is in our day to day lives. In contrast to the belief that music primarily serves to bring people together results showed that the ability of music to regulate mood and facilitate self-awareness were found to be even more important than music’s function as a social glue. The 834 participants in the study ranged from 8 to 85 years of age and were asked to complete a survey relating to music listening. More specifically, they were asked how strongly they agreed (on a scale of 0 to 6) with 129 statements relating to the role of music in their lives. A sample of statements from the survey included:

Music makes me feel connected to my friends.
Music can take my mind off of things.
Music makes me believe I’m better able to cope with my worries.
Music helps me relax.

Analysis revealed that “People listen to music to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness.  The first and second dimensions were judged to be much more important than the third- a result that contrasts with the idea that music has evolved primarily as a means for social cohesion and communication.”

You can read the full study free here through the National Institutes of Health.

Why People Listen to Music | Tuned in to Learning

Music Therapy and the Mind

How do these results tie in to the field of music therapy? The findings of this study further help support the intrinsic reasons why music motivates, engages, and inspires us. As music therapists we use music’s ability to regulate mood and arousal to help calm a child with autism, to gain the attention of a student with Down Syndrome, to bring hope into the life of a teen with depression. We capitalize on music’s link to self-awareness through song-writing with students who have difficulty expressing themselves or by listening to and discussing words to a song they may relate to.  Lastly, music IS a great social connector and we build upon this through group drumming, peer music listening activities, and partner music games for early childhood.

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