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A new look at the influence of music practice on empathy and prosociality

A new look at the influence of music practice on empathy and prosociality

Name:Dorothée Morand-Grondin

School/Affiliation:Université de Montréal

Co-Authors:Beatriz Oliveira, Floris van Vugt, Simon Rigoulot

Virtual or In-person:Virtual


Music practice is often assumed to increase empathy and prosociality. However, data in support of this relationship appear to be limited and it is unknown if all components of empathy (cognitive empathy, emotional contagion, emotional disconnection) or only a subset would be affected. Moreover, connections between music practice, empathy and prosociality are still unclear. In order to clarify these relationships, we asked musicians (n=80) and non-musicians (n=89) to fill self-reported questionnaires, and perform empathy tasks and economic games to measure empathy and prosociality. We hypothesized that musicians would score higher on empathy and prosociality than non-musicians, and that musicians who practice more would show greater effects. Using classical and Bayesian ANOVAs and controlling for gender, our study revealed no difference between both groups on empathy and prosociality, and we found no correlation between these social variables and the amount of music practice. In an exploratory analysis, we found associations between the age of onset of music practice and empathy, suggesting that it is not practice per se but specifically training early in life that has the potential to boost empathy. Our findings challenge the commonly held assumption that music practice increases empathy and prosociality and suggest that other factors may be involved, such as the age of beginning of practice.

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