Music, Thinking, Decisions (02-09-22)

McDonald, Bockler, and Kanske studied how hearing different sorts of music influences our thinking about other people.  They determined that “Music is a human universal and has the ability to evoke powerful, genuine emotions. But does music influence our capacity to understand and feel with others? A growing body of evidence indicates that empathy (sharing another’s feelings) and compassion (a feeling of concern toward others) are behaviorally and neutrally distinct, both from each other and from the social–cognitive process theory of mind (ToM; i.e., inferring others’ mental states). . . . we found enhanced empathy and compassion when emotional, but not when neutral music was present during videos displaying emotionally negative narrations. No such enhancement was present for ToM performance. Similarly, prosocial decision making increased after emotionally negative videos with emotional music. These findings demonstrate how emotional music can enhance empathic responding, compassion and prosocial decisions.”

Brennan McDonald, Anne Bockler, and Philipp Kanske. 2022. “Soundtrack to the Social World:  Emotional Music Enhances Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Decisions but Not Theory of Mind.”  Emotion, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 19-29,