The All-Time Top Six Psychological Reasons We Love Music from Psyblog
Modern technology means it’s never been easier to hear exactly the music we want, whenever we want it. But whatever technology we use, the reasons we listen to music are universal. It engages us on all sorts of different levels. A few bars of a song can take us back decades, to a different time and place. North (2010) asked 300 young people about their main reasons for listening to music to see which came out top. Here are the answers, in order of importance, counted down from six to the number one spot.
6. To learn about others and the world
Languishing down at number six was the way in which music teaches us about the world. Music tells us stories about other people and places and it gives us access to new experiences. Music can teach us how other people think and even suggest how we might live.
5. Personal identity
In at five is identity. The type of music we like expresses something about ourselves. Even the broadest genres like rock, classical and blues begin to give us a picture of a person. We also seem to discover ourselves through music: it can teach is who we are and where we belong. Through music we can build up and project an image of ourselves.
4. Interpersonal relationships
The fourth most important function of music is its social dimension. Music is a point of conversation. We listen to it while we’re with other people and we talk to them about it. It’s a way of making a connection.
3. Negative mood management
Tying for the second spot is negative mood management. When we’re in a bad mood, music can help us deal with it. When your mood is low, there is something cathartic about listening to sad music. Somehow it helps to know that you’re not alone. We use music to relieve tension, express our feelings and escape the realities of everyday life.
Also coming in at number two is diversion. Music relieves the boredom of the commute, or of a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s something to do when we don’t know what else to do.
1. Positive mood management
Right up at the top of the charts is positive mood management. This is rated people’s most important reason for listening to music: making our good moods even better. It entertains us, relaxes us and sets the right emotional tone. Music makes us more hopeful, even after things go wrong for us. In one study by Ziv et al. (2011) participants were falsely told they’d done badly on a task. Those who were played some positive music afterwards, were more hopeful about the future than those left in silence.