Can Music Increase Empathy?

Listening to music provides healing to patients with physical ailments. It appears though that there is much more that music can do.

Music is known to activate many areas of the brain, including those that are involved in how we understand what others think and feel, as well as how we predict people’s behavior. This social skill is what researchers call the “theory of mind”, which is associated with empathy.

In one study, researchers hooked up a group of participants to an fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine, which measures brain activity based on the changes associated with blood flow. The researchers then had the participants listen to music that they claimed was composed either by a computer or a human.

Researchers observed that the theory of mind cortical network lit up in participants who listened to music that they thought was composed by a human. The phenomenon, however, was not observed when participants listened to music that they believed was produced by a computer.

The findings of the study suggest that the human brain does not just process the sound that we hear when we listen to music. Instead, it tries to understand the intent of the musician and what is being communicated.

In another study, a group of young children was exposed to musical games with other kids for an hour a week over a period of one academic year. Another group of children was exposed to games that involved drama or storytelling but not music. The third group was not exposed to any game at all.

Based on empathy measures of the children that were taken at the start and end of the year, the researchers found that only the participants in the music group showed significant increase in empathy score.  Researchers think that music may have an important role in the children’s empathy development.

Listening to music may improve our ability to understand people’s feelings and behavior. The presence of music in events and social gatherings may therefore possibly improve social bonds that can increase coordination, contact and cooperation among guests.

If you’re planning to hold an event or a gathering in a bid to foster closer ties and engagement, consider hiring Bialek Music for your musical entertainment. Contact us now to learn more about the musical performances we can provide for your next party or event.