Psychology of Music: Can Soothing Music Increase Helping?
You have been listening to soothing music while reading a book. You go to
answer the phone. It is a volunteer who is asking you to donate to a nonprofit.
You are feeling happy and relaxed. You agree to donate 10 dollars to the
organization. Did listening to the soothing music influence your decision to
donate to the organization?
Fried and Berkowitz (1979) investigated the influence of music on helping
behavior. The participants were college students. There were four groups in
their experiment. One group did not listen to music. The other groups listened
to either soothing music, aversive music, or stimulating music. In this
experiment, the participants first completed a mood questionnaire. For the
participants in one of the three music conditions, they completed the mood
questionnaire before and after hearing the music. In the no music condition, the
participants also completed the mood questionnaire twice, but sat in silence for
seven minutes. After this, all participants were asked by the experimenter if they
would be willing to participate in another experiment.
Fried and Berkowitz found that people who listening to the soothing music
were more likely to agree to the experimenter's request (to participate in another
experiment) than people who did not listen to music. They also found that the
mean amount of time volunteered was greater for people who listened to
soothing music than for people who did not listen to music.
Fried and Berkowitz found that the stimulating music and the aversive music
did not increase helping. The differences between the stimulating music group
and the no music group were not statistically significant with respect to the
percentage of people helping and the amount of time volunteered. Moreover,
the differences between the aversive music group and the no music group were
not statistically significant with respect to the percentage of people helping and
the amount of time volunteered. (1)
These findings may have important practical implications. Helping behavior
may be increased by listening to soothing music. Fundraising events could
involve soothing music.
1. North, Tarrant, and Hargreaves (2004) also conducted a study involving
music and helping behavior. Their study involved uplifting and annoying music.
However, their study did not have a no music condition. Thus, it is unclear
whether the uplifting music had increased helping behavior.
Fried, R., & Berkowitz, L. (1979). Music hath charms...and can influence
helpfulness. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 9, 199-208.
North, A. C., Tarrant, M., & Hargreaves, D. J. (2004). The effects of music on
helping behavior: A field study. Environment and Behavior, 36, 266-275.