There is nothing that brings two people together like music. Music has the ability to bridge differences in politics, religion, age, social cliques, you name it. As a professional musician, I’ve seen this play out time and time again. In fact, there is nothing quite as gratifying as watching a room full of complete strangers suddenly form a conga line to live music. It’s great. In that spontaneity, no one is criticizing anybody, or worried about who they voted for in the last election. Everyone in that line is simple enjoying themselves and sharing in a moment made possibly only by music. Why is that?
For one, our brains are hardwired to respond to rhythm. As Dr. Jessica Grahn, assistant professor in the Brain and Mind Institute at the Department of Psychology at Western University, in London, Ontario states: “Moving to music is an instinctive, often involuntary activity experienced by humans regardless of their culture.” Dancing is in our DNA, even if we are bad at it.
Music affects the brain psychologically in many ways. It’s no coincidence that when two people are getting to know one another, one of the first subjects that come up is what type of music the other listens to. This is because what a person listens to is a key indicator of their personality. A recent study shows that common interest in a particular genre established a social bond between two people and encourages social interaction. It creates an attraction based on shared values and emotional reactions.
Further research has shown that the big 5 personality types (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) can be predicted by the songs on a person’s top-ten list. For instance, Indie fans were shown to have low self-esteem, be creative, and had little work ethic. Jazz fans, on the other hand, had high self-esteem, were creative, and at ease. Country fans were shown to be hard working and outgoing while Pop Chart listeners had little creativity, were outgoing and had high self-esteem. It is important to note that the subjects were all young students around 18 so this may not apply across the board. (The researchers would have a field day with me because I listen to it all)
Music Is Intoxicating
Listening to music also causes the production of dopamine in the brain, evoking a drug like reaction. Those people in that conga line are actually getting high together from the music. Beyond that, different styles of music have different effects on our psychology. Ambient music causes a relaxing sensation and enhances creativity whereas dance music stimulates activity. Because of this, we seek out music either to create a mood or to match our mood.
It is no surprise that with the wide range of applications, music in seamlessly integrated in everyday human life. Perhaps the most important role of music is unifying us through a common experience with it, no matter what our genre preferences are. In short, music’s influence on humanity is widespread and profound.