Social justice advocacy through music performance: Testing the influence of performance context and audience physiological responses
School/Affiliation:Dept. of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University
Co-Authors:Shreshth Saxena, Maya B. Flannery, Lauren K. Fink
Virtual or In-person:In-person
Music moves us, making it a popular medium to advocate for social justice. In an outstanding example, the percussion performance The Innocents by Allen Otte and John Lane addresses wrongful incarceration and the fate of exonerees. The story behind the performance is documented in an eponymous film by Wojciech Lorenc. While musicology and sociology have studied the political potential of music, there is little psychological evidence regarding the mechanisms and the effectiveness of social justice advocacy through music. The planned study therefore investigates whether The Innocents can increase audience commitment to the issue of wrongful incarceration, and how performance context, physiological changes, and social co-presence drive this effect. Based on the reciprocal feedback model of musical communication, we will test how The Innocents influences audiences’ social justice commitment (measured via active interest), depending on background knowledge (watching the film before vs. after the performance) and on in-person vs. remote livestream attendance. In addition, we will analyse the mediating role of audience attention and engagement between the conditions and social justice commitment. Audience reactions will be recorded with self-reports and physiological measures (eye movements, head motion, heart rate) for both in-person and remote participants. This poster details the background, study design, instruments, data management, and planned analyses, with the data collection scheduled for April 2024. Providing empirical evidence for the effectiveness of advocacy through music performance would be relevant for artists and funding agencies alike. Moreover, the unique dataset will be made publicly available for further analyses.