Evidence That It Works
In one study, 1,591 U.S. participants and 1,258 Chinese participants were presented with 2,168 music samples and asked to report the specific feelings that they experienced when listening to the music. The study found that music can elicit distinct types of emotions for people, including the experience of awe.
In another study, scientists had 17 right-handed participants (ages 19-27) with little or no musical training wear brain-recording caps while listening to a live band together in a club rented out for the study. They found that when people listen to music together, their brains synchronize in regions involved in attributing emotional meaning to the music (the amygdala, insula), experiencing delight (caudate nucleus), and language and cultural meaning processing (prefrontal cortex). The degree of shared brain activation also predicted how much the individuals felt both moved by the music and close to the others.
Another study with a diverse group of undergraduates from the U.S. found that listening to awe-eliciting music is related to increased positive emotions, greater inspiration, and more motivation to help others, seek meaning in life, and self-actualize.
Why Does It Matter?
Music can soothe us, lowering our levels of anxiety especially when we listen to music with other people. Music can also help us build strong social connections by fostering trust and cooperation. With students’ mental health challenges and levels of loneliness on the rise, music can play an essential role in helping students heal and connect to one another.
What’s more, awe-inspiring music may inspire students to put more effort into their school work, help them cultivate meaning in their lives, and encourage them to reach out to help others—all qualities that are essential to creating happier and more supportive schools and communities.