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The effects of musical taste, cultural familiarity, and empathy on social bonding when moving to music


Jan Stupacher

Institute of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
Center for Music in the Brain, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark


Social bonds have long been associated with enhanced mental and physical health. How well we connect with others depends, among others, on our cultural background, individual preferences, and the context of a given situation. By providing temporal and affective frameworks, music creates a unique social context that can increase behavioral synchrony and emotional harmony. In a series of studies, we investigated how these temporal and affective aspects of social interactions with music are connected and how they are modulated by individual musical preferences, cultural familiarity, and trait empathy. Our findings suggest that the influence of movement synchrony on social bonding during musical activities is less affected by what music we are familiar with but more affected by what music we enjoy. In general, we found that higher trait empathy was associated with stronger social bonding. However, empathy also interacted with movement synchrony and type of music, which suggests that empathy plays a multifaceted role in how we enjoy, interpret, and use music in social situations.