Why listening to music is social — even when you’re alone

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The article is interesting throughout but here are excerpts: 

Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, Ph.D., a research neuroscientist at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, has explored how music “creates the sense of social belonging,” as he writes in a 2015 paper, “Please Don’t Stop the Music.”

“When you’re home alone in your house, it feels empty,” he says. “And then you put on music and all of a sudden you feel better because you’re not alone. It’s not that literally you’re not alone. But you feel like you have company.”


The moment you hear a sequence of hierarchically organized abstract sounds we call music, a multitude of associations are activated in your brain. These can include memories, emotions, and even motor programs for playing music. Together they can imply a sense of human agency. That sensation is what sets music apart from other types of sounds. “The brain interprets the structure of the music as intentionality that is coming from a human agent,” Molnar-Szakacs says. “This, combined with all the associations evoked by the music, is what makes the experience social.”

And finally:

Our sense of others as represented by the mirror-neuron system, charged with emotion from the limbic system, can give rise to empathy. To Molnar-Szakacs, it is emotional empathy that can explain “why music can be experienced as a social phenomenon even when someone is listening alone on their earphones.”

[Source: Nautilus]