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Music preferences and empathy: Toward predicting prosocial behavior

Author(s): Clark SS, Giacomantonio SG


Empathy is important in adolescent development, affecting social development, and buffering against antisocial behaviors. Many studies have investigated the relationship between empathy and prosocial behaviors. Additionally, the influence of music is considered relevant to adolescent development, and the predictive utility of music preferences is an emerging interest. The influence of music on adolescent development is the focus of this study, looking at sex differences in music preferences and empathy and the potential for music preferences to predict empathy (as a correlate to prosocial behaviors). Using the Short Test of Music Preferences and the Basic Empathy Scale as measures, we found that Music Preference Factors (MPF) contributed uniquely to empathy variance, that female and male adolescents differed significantly on music preferences and empathy, and that certain music preferences are predictive of empathy, especially for male adolescents. Sex differences in music preferences and empathy are consequently suggested to be influenced by sociocultural and developmental factors. Furthermore, music preferences had a greater influence on cognitive empathy, and it may be that the greater influence on cognitive empathy that specific music preferences (i.e., MPF-1 and MPF-2) had compared with others (i.e., MPF-3 and MPF-4), can be explained by the lyrical content of specific genres. Limitations and applications of these findings are discussed.

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