Music and Empathy

More Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" Memes at the end of the post! I'm going to make you read it first...

It should be no surprise that love and music go hand in hand. The ratio for love songs to songs about ANYTHING other than love must be around 6000:1. Some of the most iconic love stories of all time had classic love songs that sold millions of copies ("The Bodyguard," "Titanic," etc.). From heart-wrenching break up anthems, to first dances at weddings, music has always been associated with love and the roller coaster of emotion that comes with it.

But did you know that music does far more than just allow for an avenue of expression for love? Music making can actually teach children how to be empathetic and increase their ability to recognize the emotional states of others, in general increasing their emotional intelligence. Researchers at Cambridge University conducted a fascinating study to measure this.

52 children were divided amongst three groups. One group participated in a weekly music group for one hour that encouraged musical interactions between group members. A second group participated in drama-based games with no music, and the last group did not participate in either group.

The children from the music group performed significantly better on post-tests than the other groups. The post-test included a questionnaire, as well as a test which measured the children's ability to remember the emotional states of actors in short videos. The researchers deemed that the music group helped children to develop "shared intentionality" and "mutual honesty," or understanding the intentions of their peers, which helped with an increased sense of empathy. As you can imagine, empathy for others is an important skill in developing healthy relationships with peers, friends, family, and loved ones.

This idea becomes particularly interesting when we examine the peer relationships of children with learning disabilities. Research shows that children with learning differences have a more difficult time forming friendships than their peers. The cause for this difficulty could be debated, but it would be reasonable to assume that greater empathy from students with and without learning disabilities may have a positive effect on how these two groups interact and learn from each other.

So you see, music is more than just telling someone we love them, it can actually help us develop the skills necessary to build healthy relationships.

Interested in starting a music group at your school? The George Center can design a weekly group for you that will build healthy relationship skills for your students! Let us tell you about it!