Music May Reduce Loneliness and Act as Social Surrogate for a Friend : Evidence from an Experimental Listening Study
Schäfer, Katharina; Saarikallio, Suvi; Eerola, Tuomas (2020). Music May Reduce Loneliness and Act as Social Surrogate for a Friend : Evidence from an Experimental Listening Study. Music and Science, 3. DOI: 10.1177/2059204320935709
Published inMusic and Science
© The Authors 2020
After losing a close other, individuals usually confide in an empathic friend to receive comfort and they seem to have a heightened desire for mood-congruent, consoling music. Hence, it has been proposed that affect-congruent music acts as a social surrogate for an empathic friend. Thus, we hypothesized that listening to comforting music, as a response to a social loss experience, provides a sense of empathic company as indicated by reduced loneliness and heightened empathy. We further predicted that distracting music would have a stronger impact on the listeners’ mood in comparison to comforting pieces. To test these assumptions, an experiment with two factors was designed: (1) Sadness was induced by an approved guided imagery method where participants visualized either their father dying (social loss), losing their eyesight (non-social loss), or shopping for groceries (control condition). (2) After the mood induction, the listening task included either comforting or distracting music that participants selected themselves. Psychometric measures for mood and loneliness were collected before and after the mood induction and after the music listening. The data were analyzed with mixed model ANOVAs. The results showed a significant reduction of loneliness and a relevant rise in empathy and mood due to listening to self-selected music, irrespective of the listener’s mood or the applied listening strategy, which suggests that private musical engagement in general can provide mood-repair and a sense of connection. This beneficial effect of private musical engagement supports the notion that not only music production but also its perception engenders social cognition. Overall, the findings corroborate the idea of music as a social surrogate. ...