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Play it Again: People Find Comfort Listening to the Same Song Over and Over

Summary: A new study reports listening to your favorite song over and over may provide you with some comfort. Niche listening enables the development of a ‘meaningful relationship’ with a particular song, which allows the affection for the tune to persist across a great deal of exposure.

Source: University of Michigan.

With the frequency that some people play their favorite song, it’s a good thing vinyl records aren’t used often because they might wear out.

University of Michigan researchers have found that people enjoy replaying a favorite song many times even after the novelty and surprise are gone. In a new study, participants reported listening to their favorite song hundreds of times.

The mean among the sample was more than 300 times and this number was even larger for listeners who had a deep connection to the song—something that was particularly likely if they had mixed emotions, such as “bittersweet,” while listening.

The availability of digital music through streaming services and YouTube makes it easier than ever for people to listen to virtually any song any time.

“Niche listening may enable listeners to develop the kind of personally meaningful relationships with particular songs that allows their affection for those songs to persist across very large amounts of exposure,” said Frederick Conrad, professor of psychology and the study’s lead author.

The study’s 204 participants completed an online questionnaire in fall 2013 about their experience listening to their favorite song, including how it made them feel and the frequency with which they played the song. Although people’s favorites songs fell into 10 genre categories, they were mainly pop/rock songs.

About 86 percent of the participants reported listening to their favorite song daily or a few times weekly. Forty-three percent of those who listened to daily replayed the song at least three times a day. Sixty percent listened to the song multiple times consecutively and about 6 percent indicated they urgently wanted to hear the song before they played it.

“Clearly, these listeners were very engaged with these songs,” said Conrad, who directs the Michigan Program in Survey Methodology at the Institute for Social Research.

sheet music and headphones

Finally, the more times people listened to their favorite song, the more the listeners could hear it internally, the researchers said. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Jason Corey, associate professor of music and a co-author of the study, said certain features of the song were particularly important reasons why respondents listened many times. The most important features were the song’s “melody,” “beat/rhythm” and “lyrics.” For songs that made listeners happy, beat/rhythm was especially important for relistening.

Finally, the more times people listened to their favorite song, the more the listeners could hear it internally, the researchers said.

“Listeners…should be able to ‘hear’ large amounts of the song in their heads, potentially including all the instrumental and vocal sounds,” Conrad said.

In fact, the more times they listened to the song, the more of it they could hear in their heads.

About this neuroscience research article

Funding: The study’s other authors are Samantha Goldstein (Eastern Michigan University), Joseph Ostrow (Massachusetts General Hospital) and Michael Sadowsky (Civis Analytics)

Source: Jared Wadley – University of Michigan
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract in Psychology of Music.
doi:10.1177/0305735617751050

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Michigan “Play it Again: People Find Comfort Listening to the Same Song Over and Over.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 16 February 2018.
<Play it Again: People Find Comfort Listening to the Same Songs Over and Over>.
University of Michigan (2018, February 16). Play it Again: People Find Comfort Listening to the Same Song Over and Over. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved February 16, 2018 from Play it Again: People Find Comfort Listening to the Same Songs Over and Over
University of Michigan “Play it Again: People Find Comfort Listening to the Same Song Over and Over.” Play it Again: People Find Comfort Listening to the Same Songs Over and Over (accessed February 16, 2018).

Abstract

Extreme re-listening: Songs people love . . . and continue to love

Despite the lack of surprise each time they listen to their favorite song, people re-listen to these songs many times. We explored “extreme re-listening” by conducting a survey about the song to which participants were “listening most often these days.” We questioned participants about their listening experience, e.g., the deepness of their connection to the song, which aspects of the song draw them back, how much of the song they were able to hear in their heads, and how (in their own words) the song made them feel, which we classified as “happy,” “calm,” and “bittersweet.” More participants whose favorite song made them feel happy reported being drawn back because of its beat/rhythm. Participants whose favorite song made them feel bittersweet reported having a deeper connection to the song than those whose favorite song evoked other feelings. These patterns held irrespective of musical training. Finally, we found that the more times they listened to their favorite song, the more of the song listeners could hear internally. People’s affection for songs to which they voluntarily listen at high rates appears not to wane as it does for songs to which their exposure is ambient as is the case with the hit parade.

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