G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)
Connecting sounds : private music listening as symbolic social behaviour (2019)

Schäfer, K. (2019). Connecting sounds : private music listening as symbolic social behaviour [Doctoral dissertation]. Jyväskylän yliopisto. JYU dissertations, 145. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-7910-2

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Schäfer, Katharina

eISBN: 978-951-39-7910-2

Journal or series: JYU dissertations

eISSN: 2489-9003

Publication year: 2019

Number in series: 145

Number of pages in the book: 1 verkkoaineisto (72 sivua, 42 sivua useina numerointijaksoina) :

Publisher: Jyväskylän yliopisto

Place of Publication: Jyväskylä

Publication country: Finland

Publication language: English

Persistent website address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-7910-2

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Open Access channel


As social creatures, human beings need to feel connected to other humans. While social needs are ideally satisfied through frequent direct social interaction, humans are flexible enough that they can, at least temporarily, fulfill these needs through indirect symbolic interaction. It has been shown that people can mentally connect with fictional characters while reading novels, get attached to their favourite television personae, or replenish feelings of belonging with reminders of existing social bonds. Previous research highly suggests that also solitary musical engagement has the power to act as substitute for direct personal interaction, i.e., a social surrogate. Thus, this dissertation aims at investigating if private music listening can afford individuals a sense of connection. Since recent studies have assigned sad music a high potential to convey a sense of company, study I consisted of an integrative review of the reasons for the enjoyment of music-evoked sadness. Study II aimed to experimentally investigate if listening to comforting music can alleviate loneliness after experiencing a social loss. Since the analysis suggested that not only comforting pieces may convey a sense of company, the different mental processes through which private engagement with various kinds of music and other media might provide individuals a sense of connection were explored with an online survey in study III. The results indicate that music is actively utilised as a social surrogate alongside other media. Yet, music seems to be especially powerful in evoking nostalgic reminiscence that effectively counteracts loneliness. Thus, the findings put forward that even solitary engagement with familiar musical pieces can provide individuals a sense of connection. Evolutionary and simulation theories are combined to explain the power of private music listening as symbolic social behaviour.

Keywords: nostalgia; music; listening; social behaviour; loneliness; social interaction; empathy; grief; emotions; social relations; media; cognitive processes

Free keywords: symbolic social behaviour; social surrogacy; mental simulation

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2019

Last updated on 2021-10-06 at 13:08