Research seminar

Wednesday 9 March 2016, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Paul Elvers (Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics)

Music listening as self-enhancement: Investigating the relationship of musical subjectivity, empathy, and self-esteem.

The talk addresses the relationship of musical subjectivity, empathy, and self-esteem from an interdisciplinary perspective. It explores how listening to music makes people feel more confident and gain self-esteem. To this end it draws back on theoretical considerations from musicology and aesthetics, as well as psychology and neuroscience.

After having outlined the theoretical framework, I will report on an empirical study that inquired after music-induced manipulations of self-esteem. The experiment (N = 119) comprised three experimental conditions, which were expected to manipulate self-esteem in different ways. Each condition consisted of three musical pieces that were previously evaluated with regard to (a) the motivational qualities and (b) the expressed self-view. The results reveal that music perceived as motivating and expressing a positive self-view enhanced (explicit) self-esteem, while music perceived as demotivating and expressing a negative self-view did not. Furthermore, the self-enhancing effect of music listening was predicted by the degree of liking, empathy, and nostalgia. While music listening changed explicit state self-esteem, it had no effect on implicit self-esteem and mood. The broader implications of the results will be discussed with regard to the role of music for wellbeing and the use of music in everyday life.

Paul Elvers is an interdisciplinary music researcher working at the intersection of musicology, psychology, and aesthetics. In his doctoral thesis he considers the musical experience as a form of »self-enhancement«, with an emphasis on the relationship of music listening, empathy, and self-esteem.

Paul Elvers graduated with distinction in Systematic Musicology from the University of Hamburg, Germany. He is a research fellow at the MPI for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany. Currently he is visiting the Oxford University Faculty of Music as a recognised student.

Location: I/D002