Highly Empathetic Music Lovers Experience Sound Differently

The ability to express empathy translates to greater satisfaction while listening to music.

July 24, 2018

If you find yourself particularly affected by the plight of the lesser fortunate...if you feel so strongly for animals that you tear up when they're mistreated...if you believe you understand the emotions another individual is experiencing...you might be highly empathetic.

Empathy is something that is seen only in more advanced species, and there's evidence that it may play a part in humanity's natural inclination to live together, in societies, reliant upon one another.

And now, according to a new study by SMU, researchers have found a direct correlation between higher levels of empathy and greater pleasure in listening to familiar music.

While high-empathy and low-empathy people both enjoy music, and respond on the biophysical level when familiar and unfamiliar music is played, there is a significant difference the researchers noticed during the study.  

“Highly empathic people process familiar music with greater involvement of the brain’s social circuitry, such as the areas activated when feeling empathy for others,” it reads in part. “They also seem to experience a greater degree of pleasure in listening, as indicated by increased activation of the reward system.”

What all this means is that music is related to how we process and interpret the social world.  Its main purpose is to communicate, to reach others, to bring together members of the human condition united in a common goal...that is, an advanced society, personal safety, and the freedom of individual choice.

Senior author Marco Iacoboni says, “...The study shows the power of music in triggering the same complex social processes at work in the brain that are at play during human social interactions.”  

So, if you find yourself to be a highly empathetic person, know that you're not just getting more pleasure out of the music you listen to...you're actually helping to bring together society at a fundamental level.