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The ice-breaker effect: Singing mediates fast social bonding


Abstract and Figures

It has been proposed that singing evolved to facilitate social cohesion. However, it remains unclear whether bonding arises out of properties intrinsic to singing or whether any social engagement can have a similar effect. Furthermore, previous research has used one-off singing sessions without exploring the emergence of social bonding over time. In this semi-naturalistic study, we followed newly formed singing and non-singing (crafts or creative writing) adult education classes over seven months. Participants rated their closeness to their group and their affect, and were given a proxy measure of endorphin release, before and after their class, at three timepoints (months 1, 3 and 7). We show that although singers and non-singers felt equally connected by timepoint 3, singers experienced much faster bonding: singers demonstrated a significantly greater increase in closeness at timepoint 1, but the more gradual increase shown by non-singers caught up over time. This represents the first evidence for an 'ice-breaker effect' of singing in promoting fast cohesion between unfamiliar individuals, which bypasses the need for personal knowledge of group members gained through prolonged interaction. We argue that singing may have evolved to quickly bond large human groups of relative strangers, potentially through encouraging willingness to coordinate by enhancing positive affect.
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Cite this article: Pearce E, Launay J, Dunbar
RIM. 2015 The ice-breaker eect: singing
mediates fast social bonding. R. Soc. open sci.
Received: 21 May 2015
Accepted: 29 September 2015
Subject Category:
Psychology and cognitive neuroscience
Subject Areas:
social cohesion, aect, endorphin, adult
education, music
Author for correspondence:
Eiluned Pearce
Electronic supplementary material is available
at or via
The ice-breaker eect:
singing mediates fast
social bonding
Eiluned Pearce, Jacques Launay and Robin I. M. Dunbar
Social & Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group,Depar tment of Experimental
Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
It has been proposed that singing evolved to facilitate social
cohesion. However, it remains unclear whether bonding
arises out of properties intrinsic to singing or whether any
social engagement can have a similar effect. Furthermore,
previous research has used one-off singing sessions without
exploring the emergence of social bonding over time. In this
semi-naturalistic study, we followed newly formed singing
and non-singing (crafts or creative writing) adult education
classes over seven months. Participants rated their closeness to
their group and their affect, and were given a proxy measure
of endorphin release, before and after their class, at three
timepoints (months 1, 3 and 7). We show that although singers
and non-singers felt equally connected by timepoint 3, singers
experienced much faster bonding: singers demonstrated a
significantly greater increase in closeness at timepoint 1, but the
more gradual increase shown by non-singers caught up over
time. This represents the first evidence for an ‘ice-breaker effect’
of singing in promoting fast cohesion between unfamiliar
individuals, which bypasses the need for personal knowledge
of group members gained through prolonged interaction.
We argue that singing may have evolved to quickly bond
large human groups of relative strangers, potentially through
encouraging willingness to coordinate by enhancing positive
1. Introduction
Creating and maintaining positive social relationships is essential
for human physical and mental health and well-being (e.g.
[14]). Furthermore, social support enhances the survival of an
individual’s children, meaning that being part of a supportive
social network may increase reproductive success [5,6]. Social
networks provide practical and emotional support as well as
providing a means of gaining new information and disseminating
the cultural knowledge crucial for human survival [711].
Nonetheless, group living brings costs as well as advantages,
for instance, competition for resources and an elevated risk of
cuckoldry (e.g. [12]). For our ancestors, individuals who did not
2015 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted
use, provided the original author and source are credited.
2 R. Soc. open sci. 2:150221
belong to a cohesive social group would have been unlikely to survive and, consequently, there is likely
to have been strong selection for behaviours that create cohesive social units that remain together despite
these costs [13,14].
Creating and maintaining personal relationships requires sufficient time investment, but finite time
budgets place a limit on the number of personal relationships that an individual can maintain through
one-on-one interactions [1517]. Generating cohesion in large groups, therefore, requires some means of
emotionally connecting many individuals simultaneously, without the need for direct dyadic interaction
[18]. Such cohesion mechanisms are likely to be particularly important in modern humans, who are
capable of sustaining much larger bonded social groups than any other primate [19,20]. However, the
behaviours that have the capacity to perform this role are as yet not well understood. In this paper, we
explore the role of group singing as one of these potential bonding behaviours, asking whether there is
something special about singing, or whether any activity performed in a group context can have a similar
bonding effect through providing opportunities for social engagement.
Singing is found in all human societies and can be performed to some extent by the vast majority of
humans: singing is a universal human behavioural capacity, and this implies that it could have arisen
as an evolutionary adaptation [21,22]. Notably, it has been argued that singing, as well as other musical
activities, may have evolved as a mechanism of social bonding [2325]. Support for this comes from
the association between singing and the release of neuropeptides known to be associated with social
bonding: oxytocin and β-endorphin [2628]. β-Endorphin is implicated in mother–infant bonds, romantic
relationships and social touch in humans [2931], and appears to be released during synchronous
behaviours that involve some physical exertion, such as rowing [32,33], laughter [34] and dancing [28],
particularly in social contexts [35]. As a coordinated and often synchronous activity, for example, in terms
of breath and heart rhythms, as well as timing and pitch [36], it is unsurprising that singing has also been
linked with elevated β-endorphin levels [28].
In addition to the apparent endorphin effect, an expanding body of the literature has consistently
shown that synchronous activity increases subsequent prosocial behaviour and feelings of affiliation
(e.g. [3745]). Furthermore, synchrony is interpreted by observers as a marker of high group cohesion
and entitativity, suggesting that the association between synchrony and group unity is particularly
strong [46,47]. Indeed, qualitative data from singing groups and choirs suggests that social interaction
and a sense of belonging are important positive features of attendance [4850]. Moreover, singing has
been shown to increase positive affect and choir members often report a ‘lift’ in mood after singing
[27,28,5153]. This shared experience of positive mood enhancement can be seen as a further form of
synchronization, preparing performers for further coordinated activity [54].
Overall, the universal nature of human singing and its consistent association with social behaviour
suggests that it could have evolved as a mechanism of bonding social groups. However, as yet it is
unclear whether there is something specific about singing that has a social bonding effect, or whether any
activity that provides the opportunity for social engagement, particularly those that encourage laughter
and thus β-endorphin release [34], would similarly lead to greater feelings of closeness towards a group.
Furthermore, how the bonding process unfolds over time in singing versus other activities remains
In collaboration with an adult education charity, the Workers’ Education Association (WEA), we
followed up the participants attending either newly formed weekly singing classes or newly formed
weekly non-singing classes (crafts or creative writing) over the course of seven months. We collected
data at three timepoints (month 1, month 3 and month 7) and at each timepoint we asked participants to
rate how close they felt to their class as a whole before and after they had taken part in the course activity
(singing or crafts/writing). This allowed us to test the hypotheses that, compared with non-singers,
singers would feel significantly closer to their group both after class compared with before class, and at
the end of the seven-month period. In addition, we tested whether singers felt a greater lift in positive
affect and a greater reduction in negative affect compared with non-singers after class compared with
beforehand. Finally, we tested whether singers showed a greater increase in pain threshold (an indirect
measure of endorphin release [28,3234]) after class compared with beforehand, relative to non-singers.
2. Material and methods
2.1. Sample
The participants in this study comprised learners attending one of seven adult education classes (four
singing classes, two creative crafts classes and one creative writing class) set up by the WEA specifically
3 R. Soc. open sci. 2:150221
Table 1. Descriptive statistics showing mean closeness (Inclusion of Other in Self score) before and after class, and the change between
the two, at each timepoint for the two conditions, showing standard deviations in parentheses. The multi-level linear model (MLM)
comparisons between the before and after scores for each condition are given for each timepoint.
mean closeness to class MLM comparison between
(s.d. in parentheses) before and after scores
condition timepoint Nbefore after change td.f. p-value
singing 1 64 2.53 (1.34) 4.33 (1.61) 1.80 (1.36) 10.47 58 <0.0001
2 66 4.95 (1.40) 5.67 (1.27) 0.71 (0.91) 5.78 60 <0.0001
3 58 5.50 (1.38) 6.07 (1.11) 0.57 (0.88) 4.31 53 <0.0001
non-singing 1 46 3.15 (1.83) 3.72 (1.70) 0.57 (1.05) 3.80 42 0.0005
2 36 4.42 (1.54) 4.94 (1.59) 0.53 (0.97) 3.22 34 0.003
3 32 5.53 (1.44) 5.78 (1.39) 0.25 (0.51) 2.74 28 0.011
for the study. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 83 years (singers: M=60 ±12 years; non-singers:
M=52 ±15 years). For the singing classes, 73 of 84 participants (87%) were female and for non-singing
classes 45 of 51 participants (88%) were female. Across the three timepoints, the sample size decreased in
both conditions (table 1) due to dropout. Twenty-seven participants (53%) in the non-singing condition
and 48 participants (57%) in the singing condition provided data at all three timepoints. However, the
statistical analysis used is not adversely affected by missing data, so the results presented here include
the full sample.
2.2. Methods
There were two conditions in this study: singing and non-singing. The singing condition comprised
four singing classes, who were taught by professional singing tutors using a Natural Voice Network
( style approach. The non-singing comparison condition comprised two
crafts classes and a creative writing class, who were also led by professional tutors. The tutors had been
teaching their specialist subject for 2–20 years. Each class was 2 h long.
All seven classes were set up specifically for the study, so that although some participants knew each
other from their local community, the class groups were newly formed at the start of the study. Data
collection started during the second or third class of the course (i.e. the group had met once or twice prior
to data collection at timepoint 1). The design of the study is that of a conventional quasi-experiment (field
experiment) in which there is no control over the assignment of participants to experimental conditions.
The classes ran over seven months comprising two terms with a two-week break in the middle. Data
were collected at three timepoints: month 1 (timepoint 1), month 3 (immediately prior to the break;
timepoint 2) and month 7 (timepoint 3).
At each of these three timepoints, participants completed a questionnaire before and after their class
and provided a ‘pressure cuff measure’ (see below) before and after the class. At timepoint 1, participants
were asked to provide demographic information as well as being asked whether they already knew
anyone else in their class. In the non-singing condition, 14 participants (27%) knew no one before
starting the class (known others M=2 others, range =0–5 other people) and in the singing condition
24 participants (29%) reported knowing no one else before starting the class (known others M=2 others,
range =0–8 other people).
At each of the three timepoints, participants were asked to rate how close they felt to their class as a
whole both before and after the class using a modified version of the pictorial Inclusion of Other in Self
(IOS) 7-point scale from 1 to 7 [55], termed ‘closeness’ here. In addition, participants were asked to fill
in the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) [56] both before and after the class. There were
no significant differences in baseline (i.e. before the first class) closeness or positive or negative affect
between singing and non-singing classes. Change in closeness/affect was calculated by subtracting the
before-class score from the after-class score.
As direct measurement of β-endorphin release requires procedures that are impractical (PET scanning
or lumbar puncture), it is standard practice to use a proxy measure [28,32–34]. Given the known function
of β-endorphin as an analgesic, pain tolerance is often used: the greater the increase in pain threshold that
4 R. Soc. open sci. 2:150221
01 2 3 combined
across timepoints
mean change in closeness
Figure 1. Mean change in closeness for singers (circles) and non-singers (squares), both separately across the three timepoints and
pooled across the three timepoints (shaded grey box). Means are shown ±2s.e.
an individual can withstand, the greater the implied level of circulating endorphins. Here we followed
the procedure detailed in Dunbar et al. [34]: a sphygmomanometer (blood-pressure cuff) was gently
inflated at a steady rate (10 mmHg s1) until the participant first indicated that it felt ‘very uncomfortable’
(or a maximum pressure of 300 mmHg was reached). This measure was referred to as a ‘blood pressure
cuff measure’ to avoid biasing participants. The same protocol was administered before and after the
class at each of the three timepoints. An increase in pain threshold across an activity indicates endorphin
activation. There was no significant difference in baseline (i.e. before the first class) pain thresholds
between singing and non-singing classes. Participants who reached the maximum threshold (300 mmHg)
at baseline, or were diabetic, had smoked or drunk alcohol in the last 12 h or had exercised in the last 2 h
were excluded from the pain threshold analysis.
2.3. Analysis
Given that participants were nested in classes and therefore do not represent independent data-points,
multi-level linear models (MLMs) were conducted for all analyses. These models control for extraneous
variables such as the effect of the different tutors teaching the different classes. For within-subject
comparisons of measures before and after a class, ‘individual participant’ was added as an additional
nested layer. For initial comparisons between conditions, timepoint was included as a third nested layer
because (i) for these analyses, we were interested in the difference between conditions rather than change
over time and (ii) this maximized sample size while taking lack of independence into account. Note
that for these analyses sample sizes do not correspond to numbers of participants, but the number of
data-points included in each model, pooled across timepoints. For follow-up analyses looking at social
bonding (IOS scores) over time, timepoint was included in the models as an independent factor.
3. Results
Participants felt significantly closer to their classmates after class (singing: M=5.23, s.d. =1.64,
N=197; non-singing: M=4.68, s.d. =1.79, N=114) compared with beforehand (singing: M=4.28,
s.d. =1.89, N=189; non-singing: M=4.23, s.d. =1.90, N=116): t444.9 =3.486, p=0.0005. There was
no significant main effect of condition (p=0.869), but there was a significant interaction between
condition and the before/after comparison (t447.7 =2.57, p=0.010). This interaction corresponds to a
significantly greater increase in the change in closeness during a class (t298.12 =5.01, p<0.0001) in the
singing condition (M=1.04, s.d. =1.02, N=188) compared with the non-singing condition (M=0.46,
s.d. =0.90, N=114). Singers thus experience a greater increase in closeness to their classmates than non-
singers overall (figure 1). Nonetheless, both singers and non-singers demonstrated significant increases
in closeness to their respective group at each of the three timepoints (table 1).
Mean positive affect was significantly higher after class (singing: M=3.58, s.d. =1.04, N=197; non-
singing: M=3.50, s.d. =0.99, N=113) compared with beforehand (singing: M=2.93, s.d. =0.97, N=
189; non-singing: M=3.13, s.d. =0.92, N=116): t479.1 =4.19, p<0.0001. There was no significant main
effect of condition (p=0.249). However, the interaction between condition and the before/after contrast
was significant: t480.1 =2.79, p=0.005. This interaction corresponds to a significantly greater increase
5 R. Soc. open sci. 2:150221
non-singing singing
mean change in negative affect mean change in positive affect
Figure 2. Mean change in (a) positive and (b) negative aect for singers (circles) and non-singers (squares), pooled across timepoints.
Means are shown ±2s.e.
in the change in positive affect during a class (t298 =2.70, p=0.007) in the singing condition (M=0.65,
s.d. =0.94, N=187) compared with the non-singing condition (M=0.37, s.d. =0.73, N=113) (figure 2a).
Negative affect was significantly lower after class (singing: M=1.11, s.d. =0.29, N=193; non-
singing: M=1.21, s.d. =0.51, N=111) compared with beforehand (singing: M=1.24, s.d. =0.51, N=
188; non-singing: M=1.34, s.d. =0.76, N=115): t453.4 =−2.47, p=0.014. There was no significant main
effect of condition (p=0.071) and no significant interaction between condition and the before/after
comparisons (p=0.824). Correspondingly, change in negative affect did not differ significantly between
the conditions (p=0.888) (figure 2b).
Pain thresholds were significantly higher after class (singers M=182.75, s.d. =63.04, N=103;
non-singers M=161.33, s.d. =61.12, N=45) compared with beforehand (singers M=176.89, s.d. =
58.05, N=103; non-singers M=147.00, s.d. =60.88, N=45): t210.18 =2.22, p=0.027. There was no main
effect of condition (p=0.427) and no significant interaction between condition and the before/after
comparisons (p=0.274). Correspondingly, change in pain threshold did not differ significantly between
the conditions (p=0.474) (figure 3).
At the end of the classes (timepoint 3), no significant difference in social closeness scores was found
between singers and non-singers after class: p=0.748, (table 1). However, there was a main effect of
singing on change in closeness (t296 =6.28, p<0.0001) and an interaction between singing and timepoint
(interaction between condition and (i) contrast between timepoint 1 and timepoint 2: t296 =−3.65,
p=0.0003; (ii) timepoint 1 and timepoint 3: t296 =−3.07, p=0.002). To clarify these interaction effects,
we tested models for each timepoint separately. These demonstrated that although the positive change
in reported closeness was significantly greater for singers than non-singers at timepoint 1 (t4.12 =4.32,
p=0.012), there was no significant difference between the two conditions at timepoint 2 (p=0.503) or
timepoint 3 (p=0.165) (figure 1).
Figure 4 suggests that whereas the pattern of increase in closeness towards classmates within and
across timepoints increases linearly for non-singers, the positive relationship over time is more curved
for singers: a sharper increase initially, which levels off. This is supported by the finding that although
the change in closeness for singers was significantly greater at timepoint 1 than timepoint 2 (t182.9 =5.75,
6 R. Soc. open sci. 2:150221
–10 non-singing singing
mean change in pain threshold (mmHg)
Figure 3. Mean change in pain thresholds for singers (circles) and non-singers (squares), pooled across timepoints. Means are shown
mean closeness
mean closeness
Figure 4. (a) Mean closeness scores before (open squares) and after (lled squares) class for non-singers across the three timepoints
and (b) mean closeness scores before (open circles)and after (lled circles) class for singers across the three timepoints. Means are shown
p<0.0001), there was no difference in the change in closeness between timepoints 2 and 3 (p=0.460)
(figure 1 and the mean changes given in table 1). For non-singers, on the other hand, the change in
closeness was not different between either timepoints 1 and 2 (p=0.852) or timepoints 2 and 3 (p=0.208)
(figure 1 and the mean changes given in table 1): for non-singers the change over the course of a class
was consistent over time.
We fitted linear and quadratic curves to the data in the two conditions separately, taking the
nested class structure into account, and tested for a difference in model fit, measured as maximum
likelihood. For both singers (t381.40 =15.20, p<0.0001) and non-singers (t226.23 =10.01, p<0.0001), a
significant positive linear relationship was found between time (coded 1–6 to take into account both the
before and after measures and timepoints) and closeness score. By contrast, in a quadratic model only
singers showed a significant partial relationship between the squared (quadratic) term and closeness
(t380.20 =−6.08, p<0.0001), whereas the non-singers did not (p=0.338), implying that only the linear
term was relevant for non-singers (partial relationships for the linear term: non-singers: t225.05 =3.03,
p=0.003; singers t380.20 =9.24, p<0.0001). Goodness-of-fit tests revealed that the quadratic model fitted
the singing data significantly better than the linear model (χ2=35.42, p<0.0001), but that there was no
difference in fit between the linear and quadratic models for the non-singing data (p=0.335).
4. Discussion
Overall our results indicate that compared with individuals participating in craft or creative writing
classes, singers experience a greater increase in both self-reported closeness to their group and positive
affect. By contrast, although negative affect decreased and pain thresholds (a proxy for endorphin
7 R. Soc. open sci. 2:150221
release) increased during classes, there was no difference in these changes between the conditions:
participants could withstand more pain and reported lower negative affect after class compared with
beforehand, but, contra our hypotheses, this effect occurred irrespective of the activity that they
had performed.
Despite the fact that singers and non-singers reached similar levels of closeness to their classmates by
the end of the study (table 1), comparisons revealed distinctly different patterns in how group bonding
occurred. Whereas singers showed a significantly greater boost in closeness at timepoint 1 compared with
non-singers (reflected in the greater change found in the pooled data) followed by a plateau, non-singers
showed a more gradual, linear increase to reach the same point eventually. Contrary to our hypothesis
that singing would lead to closer groups overall, therefore, the distinguishing feature of singing was that
it bonded groups more quickly than the other activities.
The differences in the temporal patterns of bonding suggest that the singing and non-singing classes
may have reached similar levels of emotional closeness through different mechanisms, or at least
different combinations of mechanisms. Building on a growing body of the literature, we propose that
group unity depends on behaviours that are synchronous and involve some muscular effort, which
trigger the release of neuropeptides such as β-endorphin, yield enhanced positive affect, and in turn may
enhance individuals’ willingness to cooperate [28,32,34,35,57]. By contrast, building close personal ties
with individuals relies more on frequently repeated one-on-one (or small group) interactions in which
individuals have the opportunity to talk and observe each other at close quarters to build up an idea of
a potential social partner’s trustworthiness and usefulness as a coalition partner [15]. We argue that, in
the singing classes, shared musical activity initially facilitated group bonding by bypassing the need to
get to know everyone in the class individually, creating general feelings of positivity towards everyone
present. Further closeness in the singing classes may have arisen as new relationships were built with
individual classmates during the tea-break conversations or between classes.
On the other hand, the non-singing classes provided more opportunity than the singing classes for
talking to each other, but lacked a powerful means of bonding a whole class simultaneously. This may
account for the more steady increase in group closeness over time in the comparison condition classes,
reflecting the gradual strengthening of personal ties with individual group members associated with
regular and repeated interactions. Interpersonal closeness may have been amplified through laughter,
which has been shown to lead to greater pain threshold increase (endorphin release) in social versus
solitary settings [34], but is limited to bonding no more than three individuals at a time in typical
conversational interactions [58]. In the non-singing classes, therefore, group connectedness is likely
to have culminated from the building of personal relationships through conversational interaction
and associated laughter, whereas singing may have led to the development of personal relationships
within the context of an already heightened sense of group cohesion. As singers reached the ceiling
of the IOS measure more quickly than non-singers, it is possible that in reality singers did not reach a
plateau in emotional closeness to their classmates, but that this continued to deepen over time beyond
the level experienced by non-singers. Additional social bonding measures would be required to test
this possibility.
It should be noted that in contrast with the singing classes, learners in the craft and creative writing
classes worked on individual projects rather than working together towards a shared goal. This means
that this study did not distinguish between the group-bonding effects of the physical act of singing per se
and the existence of a shared group motivation to create a piece of music together. Further work should
test between these explanations by comparing singing classes with, for instance, groups cooperating to
produce a piece of drama or a joint craft project such as a collaborative quilting.
Although protracted interaction is likely to be necessary in order for intimate personal relationships
to develop within a group, singing may be able to kick start this process in humans: singing breaks the
ice so that individuals feel closer to the group as a whole even if they do not yet know anything about
the individual members. Such an effect may overcome time constraints on the creation of individual
relationships to allow large human groups to coordinate effectively and quickly. In this regard, it is
interesting that religion, another potential mechanism for connecting large numbers of individuals, often
incorporates singing or chanting in groups [18]. The capacity of singing to bond groups of relative
strangers in humans may have played a crucial role in allowing modern humans to create and maintain
much larger social networks than their evolutionary relatives, which in turn may have facilitated the
colonization of risky environments across the globe [59].
Ethics. Ethics approval for this study was provided by the Central University Research Ethics Committee (CUREC) of
the University of Oxford (reference: MSD-IDREC-C1-2013-148).
Data accessibility. The data supporting this article have been uploaded as part of the electronic supplementary material.
8 R. Soc. open sci. 2:150221
Authors’ contributions. E.P. and R.D. conceived the research project, E.P. coordinated data collection and conducted the
analysis, E.P. and J.L. collected data, all authors contributed to the manuscript.
Competing interests. The authors declare no competing interests.
Funding. The adult education classes were funded by the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), including a grant
awarded to them by the Rayne Foundation. The research conducted by E.P., J.L. and R.D. is funded by an ERC
Advanced Investigator grant (295663) awarded to R.D.
Acknowledgements. We thank Rafael Wlodarski, Meg Hughes, Anna Machin and Bronwyn Tarr for assisting with data
collection. We thank the WEA staff who organized the classes and allowed the research to take place. In particular,
we thank the learners and tutors who participated in the research as well as Howard Croft and Cathie Zara from the
WEA West Midlands region for their hard work, support and enthusiasm.
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Supplementary resource (1)

... Firstly, language barriers were noted at the public meeting as obstacles to social participation. Secondly, the academic leadership within the design team brought an awareness of the research evidence supporting the role of music, particularly singing, in facilitating positive experiences of cultural diversity and inclusion (Balsnes 2016;Lenette 2019;Pearce et al. 2015;Phelan 2017;Sunderland et al. 2015). ...
... Studies have shown that people value musical participation in terms of aspects such as personal development, musical learning, social connection and a sense of belonging (Balsnes 2016;Bonshor 2018;Kenny 2016;Pitts 2016;Phelan 2017). Singing, in particular, has been shown to be especially effective in helping individuals to quickly establish a sense of closeness within a group (Pearce et al. 2015). Phelan notes that 'singing has a special relationship with the social body through performance. ...
The Irish World Music Café was created in 2015 in Limerick, Ireland, in the context of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. The Café is grounded in the four ‘PERC’ principles of participatory, ethical, reflexive and creative engagement. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Café moved online on World Refugee Day 2020 with two additional online Cafés thereafter. In January 2021, a review of participation in the Café commenced to guide the decision-making processes regarding content, format and mode of engagement for the immediate and long-term future. The review was qualitative, comprising ten ethnographic interviews and author fieldnotes. Data generated were interpreted using thematic analysis. Three themes were identified through this process: enablers, activities and experiences. It concludes with the proposal that the expanded temporal, spatial and relational opportunities created through the online environment correlate with reduced opportunities for kinaesthetic-tactile embodied experiences. Understanding the dynamic relationship between planes of lived experience is important in the future development of the Café.
... Not only adolescents (Schäfer & Sedlmeier, 2009) but also younger (Boer et al., 2011) and older adults (Hays & Minichiello, 2005) use music choices to define and communicate their social identity (Lamont, 2019). Singing and dancing together enhance feelings of affiliation with other group members (Pearce et al., 2015;Tarr et al., 2014), thereby reinforcing the interpersonal self. Rituals involving music (e.g., religious, rites of passage, and healing rituals) function to reinforce social norms to community members (Henrich, 2020;Tuzin, 1980). ...
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Research has investigated psychological processes in an attempt to explain how and why people appreciate music. Three programs of research have shed light on these processes. The first focuses on the appreciation of musical structure. The second investigates self-oriented responses to music, including music-evoked autobiographical memories, the reinforcement of a sense of self, and benefits to individual health and wellbeing. The third seeks to explain how music listeners become sensitive to the causal and contextual sources of music making, including the biomechanics of performance, knowledge of musicians and their intentions, and the cultural and historical context of music making. To date, these programs of research have been carried out with little interaction, and the third program has been omitted from most psychological enquiries into music appreciation. In this paper, we review evidence for these three forms of appreciation. The evidence reviewed acknowledges the enormous diversity in antecedents and causes of music appreciation across contexts, individuals, cultures, and historical periods. We identify the inputs and outputs of appreciation, propose processes that influence the forms that appreciation can take, and make predictions for future research. Evidence for source sensitivity is emphasized because the topic has been largely unacknowledged in previous discussions. This evidence implicates a set of unexplored processes that bring to mind causal and contextual details associated with music, and that shape our appreciation of music in important ways. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... As humans no longer have fur to socially groom, these receptors respond instead to stroking, caressing, touching, and hugging which we use as a means of expressing and strengthening intimate relationships (Dunbar, 2010;Löken and Olausson, 2010;Suvilehto et al., 2015). Even non-tactile behaviors such as laughing (Caruana, 2017;Manninen et al., 2017), singing (Pearce et al., 2015), dancing (Tarr et al., 2015(Tarr et al., , 2016, and emotional story telling in social contexts can facilitate the release of endogenous opioids. Thus, showing and receiving affection and intimacy activates neurobiological processes that reward and promote continued display of such behaviors. ...
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In social species such as humans, non-human primates, and even many rodent species, social interaction and the maintenance of social bonds are necessary for mental and physical health and wellbeing. In humans, perceived isolation, or loneliness, is not only characterized by physical isolation from peers or loved ones, but also involves negative perceptions about social interactions and connectedness that reinforce the feelings of isolation and anxiety. As a complex behavioral state, it is no surprise that loneliness and isolation are associated with dysfunction within the ventral striatum and the limbic system – brain regions that regulate motivation and stress responsiveness, respectively. Accompanying these neural changes are physiological symptoms such as increased plasma and urinary cortisol levels and an increase in stress responsivity. Although studies using animal models are not perfectly analogous to the uniquely human state of loneliness, studies on the effects of social isolation in animals have observed similar physiological symptoms such as increased corticosterone, the rodent analog to human cortisol, and also display altered motivation, increased stress responsiveness, and dysregulation of the mesocortical dopamine and limbic systems. This review will discuss behavioral and neuropsychological components of loneliness in humans, social isolation in rodent models, and the neurochemical regulators of these behavioral phenotypes with a neuroanatomical focus on the corticostriatal and limbic systems. We will also discuss social loss as a unique form of social isolation, and the consequences of bond disruption on stress-related behavior and neurophysiology.
... First, the anthropological and fieldwork-based study of music across cultures, which has firmly established that music is deeply embedded in social life and is often a participatory activity (Blacking, 1973;Feld, 1984;Lewis, 2013;Merriam, 1964;Nettl, 2015;Savage et al., 2015;Turino, 2008). Second, experiments in social psychology demonstrating how musical interactions support empathy, bonding and prosociality (Mogan et al., 2017;Pearce et al., 2015;Rabinowitch et al., 2013;Weinstein et al., 2016). Third, the psychological study of music perception, which points to the critical importance of embodied anticipation, and consequently suggests that music listening is essentially active, and can in fact be construed as "covert performance" (Cannon & Patel, 2021;Cross, 2010;Huron, 2006;Koelsch et al., 2019;Patel & Iversen, 2014;Vuust & Frith, 2008). ...
Theories of music evolution rely on our understanding of what music is. Here, I argue that music is best conceptualized as an interactive technology, and propose a coevolutionary framework for its emergence. I present two basic models of attachment formation through behavioral alignment applicable to all forms of affiliative interaction and argue that the most critical distinguishing feature of music is entrained temporal coordination. Music's unique interactive strategy invites active participation and allows interactions to last longer, include more participants, and unify emotional states more effectively. Regarding its evolution, I propose that music, like language, evolved in a process of collective invention followed by genetic accommodation. I provide an outline of the initial evolutionary process which led to the emergence of music, centered on four key features: technology, shared intentionality, extended kinship, and multilevel society. Implications of this framework on music evolution, psychology, cross-species and cross-cultural research are discussed.
... See Figure 8 for a more detailed analysis of the Dual Cohesion model. with the group (Anshel and Kipper, 1988;Hove and Risen, 2009;Wiltermuth and Heath, 2009;Kirschner and Tomasello, 2010;Dunbar et al., 2012;Fischer et al., 2013;Reddish et al., 2013;Cirelli et al., 2014;Pearce et al., 2015;Good and Russo, 2016;Launay et al., 2016;Rennung and Göritz, 2016;Weinstein et al., 2016;Kniffin et al., 2017;von Zimmermann et al., 2018;Cross et al., 2019;Mehr et al., 2021;Savage et al., 2021). From a functional perspective, a short-term intervention of synchronized movement and/or vocalizing with others has the long-term benefit of fostering a communitarian sense of belonging to the group and of supporting cooperative endeavors with group members, not least with non-kin. ...
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In this article, I present a model of social cognition that is grounded in the interplay between mentalizing and joint action during social interaction. I first propose a psychological distinction between a “character” and a “partner” as two different ways of conceiving of people in social cognition. A character is someone whom we connect with as a spectator. We can mentalize about them, but they cannot mentalize about us at the same time, since there is no direct interaction. A partner, by contrast, is someone with whom we are engaged in a social interaction such that the mentalizing is reciprocal. However, the defining feature of partnered interaction is not mentalizing per se but instead the adaptivity by which partners make ongoing behavioral adjustments to one another during their interactions. Such adaptivity provides a foundation for forming social bonds with people. I present a Dual Cohesion perspective that focuses on two complementary manners for achieving social cohesion with people during partnered interactions: alignment in conversation and entrainment in joint physical actions. Alignment is based on a cognitive convergence of ideas, whereas entrainment is based on a behavioral coordination of actions. Overall, the model reveals the interplay between mentalizing and joint action in social cognition and partnered interaction.
Geographic patterns of cultural variations are affected by how cultural traits are transmitted within and between populations. It has been argued that cultural traits are transmitted in different manners depending on their characteristics; for example, words for basic concepts are less liable to horizontal transmission between populations (i.e., borrowing) than other words. Here we examine the geographic variation of traditional songs in the Ryukyu Archipelago, southwestern islands of Japan, to explore cultural evolution of music with a focus on different social contexts in which songs are sung. Published scores of 1,342 traditional songs are coded using the CantoCore song classification scheme and distances between the songs are calculated from the codings. Neighbor-Net graphs of regions/islands are generated on the basis of the musical distances, and delta scores are obtained to examine the treelikeness of the networks. We also perform analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) to evaluate the extent of musical diversification among regions/islands. Our results suggest that horizontal transmission between populations has played a greater role in the formation of musical diversity than that of linguistic diversity in the Ryukyu Archipelago and that the social context in which songs are sung has an effect on how they are transmitted within and between populations. In addition, we compare the observed patterns of song diversity among regions/islands with those of lexical and mitochondrial-DNA (mtDNA) diversity, showing that the variation of songs sung in the "work" context are associated with the linguistic variation, whereas no association is found between the musical and genetic variation.
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A range of studies suggest that singing activities with young children can have a beneficial impact on other aspects of their development. However, there is little research examining the relationship between young children's singing and their developing social identity. In the current study, data were captured of young children's singing and social identity as part of a larger-scale, longitudinal evaluation of the nationwide Sing Up programme in England. Participants were 720 children aged 5-8 years old. The assessment of young children's singing ability employed an established measure and was undertaken individually. With adult support, the children were also asked to complete a simple questionnaire that focused on selected aspects of their social identity, both in general terms and also related to singing. Key themes embraced their attitudes to singing (at home, in school and in informal settings), singer identity (emotional engagement with singing and self-concept), and perceptions of self (self-efficacy, self-esteem, social integration). Comparative data were collected from young children of a similar age outside the programme. Findings suggested that the programme had a positive impact on children's singing ability, both overall and including the youngest children. The data analyses suggest that children could be identified as either "pupils with positive singing identity" or "pupils with less positive, or still developing singing identity." Overall, pupils with a more positive singer identity-irrespective of Sing Up-related experience-tended to report more positive attitudes toward singing at school and other settings, had higher perceived levels of self-esteem and social integration, as well as more positive evaluations of their singing ability. Furthermore, the research suggests that successful participation in high-quality singing activities is likely to have a positive impact on young children's singing ability and, by implication, such positive singing development will also be associated with aspects of self that are related to contexualised singer identity and their sense of social inclusion.
This article conveys data collected in an ethnographic case study exploring monthly participatory community singing events in one city in the American Midwest. I analyze these data through the lens of a “traditional” choral conductor who, prior to undertaking this investigation, had little knowledge about participatory singing traditions; I also utilize scholarship about participatory versus presentational music activities as defined by Turino. Themes that arose during data analysis include: the context of folk music culture of Middletown, the inclusivity of community singing events, the role of the song-leader in facilitating these events, and “wounding stories” from participants who were discouraged by music educators. Perhaps in reflecting on the dichotomy between performative and participatory singing events, the choral community may begin to unlearn strictures that make some singers feel unwelcome.
Social disconnection is associated with poor outcome and long‐term disability in individuals with schizophrenia‐spectrum conditions (SCZ) but social isolation is not typically a target for treatment. Singing together has long been shown to promote unique group cohesion and improve sense of well‐being across the lifespan. Accordingly, we devised a novel choral intervention to examine the potential efficacy of this low‐burden social intervention strategy designed to reduce loneliness in SCZ. Seventeen SCZ participated in a weekly, 1‐hr choir group for 8 weeks. At pre‐ and post‐intervention, we examined symptoms, loneliness, stress, and face recognition. Choral intervention led to significant reductions in scores for loneliness, the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) and the Beck Depression Inventory‐II (BDI‐II). No significant changes were observed in scores for the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS), the Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms (SAPS), face recognition, or the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Diminished loneliness was inversely correlated with the number of sessions attended. Participants judged the choir intervention to be acceptable and enjoyable. Reduced loneliness and symptom improvement after 8 weeks of intervention in SCZ suggest that choral intervention presents an enjoyable and low‐burden opportunity to collaborate in a group setting for isolated individuals and thus may serve as a beneficial adjunct in a multi‐arm intervention strategy for alleviating symptom distress and loneliness.
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Although we share many aspects of our behaviour and biology with our primate cousins, humans are, nonetheless, different in one crucial respect: our capacity to live in the world of the imagination. This is reflected in two core aspects of our behaviour that are in many ways archetypal of what it is to be human: religion and story-telling. I shall show how these remarkable traits seem to have arisen as a natural development of the social brain hypothesis, and the underlying nature of primate sociality and cognition, as human societies have been forced to expand in size during the course of our evolution over the past 5 million years.
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Coordinated behavior patterns are one of the pillars of social interaction. Researchers have recently shown that movement synchrony influences ratings of rapport, and the extent to which groups are judged to be a unit. The current experiments investigated the hypothesis that observers infer a shared psychological state from synchronized movement rhythms, influencing attributions of rapport and entitativity judgments. Movement rhythms of observed individuals are manipulated between participants (Experiment 1) or kept constant while the source of the emerging movement synchrony is manipulated (Experiment 2), and both rapport and perceived entitativity are measured. The findings support the assumption that movement synchrony increases attributed rapport and perceived entitativity. Furthermore, mediational analyses reveal that the effects of movement synchrony on perceived unity are not purely perceptual in nature, but caused by psychological inferences. Observers infer the degree to which individuals are a social unit from their movement rhythms.
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Discusses apparent flexibility of organization as a means of reducing risk and the effects that such a social system has on many areas of Bushman life, and illustrates these points by describing the Kung system of reciprocity called hxaro. -M.Barrett
Psychobiological effects of amateur choral singing were studied in a naturalistic controlled within-subjects trial. A mixed group of novice and experienced singers (N = 21) filled out brief ad hoc questionnaires of psychological wellbeing and gave samples of saliva for measuring levels of salivary oxytocin, cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosteron (DHEA) at the beginning of 2 rehearsal sessions and 30 minutes later. The singing condition included warm-up vocal exercises and repertoire pieces. In the chatting condition, dyads of participants talked to each other about recent positive life experiences. Within-subjects, repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) on self-reported and physiological measures revealed significant Time X Condition interactions for psychological wellbeing and oxytocin. Comparisons of mean scores showed patterns of changes favouring singing over chatting. There were no significant interactions for cortisol, DHEA as well as for the cortisol-DHEA-ratio. These results suggest that singing enhances individual psychological wellbeing as well as induces a socio-biological bonding response.