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Music can 'reduce feelings of prejudice between people from different racial backgrounds'

Laura  Barnes
Music can 'reduce feelings of prejudice between people from different racial backgrounds'

A new scientific report has found that listening to music from other cultures helps ‘minimise feeling of prejudice while boosting empathy for others unlike themselves’.

Researchers at the University of Arizona have conducted studies to see how music affects peoples’ feelings of prejudice towards those with a different racial background to themselves.

"Music would not have developed in our civilisations if it did not do very important things to us," said Jake Harwood, a professor the University who has lead the study.

"Music allows us to communicate common humanity to each other. It models the value of diversity in ways you don't readily see in other parts of our lives."
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Harwood worked with UA graduate researchers Farah Qadar and Chien-Yu Chen to record mock news stories featuring an Arab and an American playing music together.

These video clips were shown to non-Arab Americans, and the team found that when viewing the two cultures collaborating on music, individuals in the study were prone to report a less prejudice view of Arabs.

"The act of merging music is a metaphor for what we are trying to do: Merging two perspectives in music, you can see an emotional connection, and its effect is universal," said Qadar.

The benefits were notable, even when individuals did not play musical instruments themselves. “Merely listening to music produced by outgroup members helped reduce negative feelings about outgroup members,” Harwood said.

"It's not just about playing Arab music. But if you see an Arab person playing music that merges the boundary between mainstream US and Arab, then you start connecting the two groups."

As part of the study, Harwood measured people's appreciation for diversity, then asked them to listen to music from other cultures and reveal how much they enjoyed the music and what they perceived of the people the music represented.

The study showed that those who value diversity are more likely to enjoy listening to music from other cultures, and that act of listening furthers these pro-diversity beliefs.

"It has this sort of spiral effect. If you value diversity, you are going to listen to more music from other cultures. If all you are doing is listening to the same type of music all the time, there is homogeneity that is not doing a lot to help people to increase their value for diversity," said Harwood.

Harwood and his team’s research has been published on the Journal of Communication. You can read it in full here.

Tags: music , research , listening to music , humanising effect of music , prejudice , university of Arizona

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