A1 Journal article (refereed)
Music May Reduce Loneliness and Act as Social Surrogate for a Friend : Evidence from an Experimental Listening Study (2020)

Schäfer, K., Saarikallio, S., & Eerola, T. (2020). Music May Reduce Loneliness and Act as Social Surrogate for a Friend : Evidence from an Experimental Listening Study. Music and Science, 3. https://doi.org/10.1177/2059204320935709

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Schäfer, Katharina; Saarikallio, Suvi; Eerola, Tuomas

Journal or series: Music and Science

eISSN: 2059-2043

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 3

Publisher: Sage Publications

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2059204320935709

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Open Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/71298


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.

Keywords: emotions; music; consolation; loneliness; cognitive musicology; listening

Free keywords: comfort; emotion regulation; loneliness; music listening; social music cognition; social surrogacy

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2022-17-06 at 11:48