The Potential of Music to Effect Social Change

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Can music effect social change? This is a complex question, because both music and social change exist in multiple forms and within diverse contexts. What types of music cause social change and what kinds of social change are generated by music are questions that deserve systematic empirical investigation. Addressing these questions may have important benefits for advancing society and for revealing the important aspects of the human connection to music. Several studies have begun to explore such questions, so it is useful at this stage to pause and consider what is actually meant by social change and what are the cognitive and emotional processes that underlie musical responses and behaviour, which is the goal of this interdisciplinary review paper. Social behaviour appears in different forms (e.g., collaboration, helpfulness), and contexts (e.g., dyad, group, community). At the same time, engagement in music involves a variety of behaviours (e.g., synchronisation). In order to better understand how these different musical and social behaviours interact, and in order to produce high-quality research in this area, it is necessary to carry out more investigations of the mechanistic basis of the links between music and social change. Such a research agenda will include a thorough deconstruction of music into its essential elements and, subsequently, and may involve a reconstruction of the most socially relevant components into novel forms of music.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMusic and Science
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Change
  • empathy
  • music
  • social
  • synchrony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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