Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Music Makes the People Come Together: Social Functions of Music Listening for Young People Across Cultures

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posted on 2021-11-10, 02:22 authored by Boer, Diana

Music is important in most people''s lives independent of their cultural origin. Music can foster bonds between people and communicate values and identity. This thesis examined the social psychological functions of music across cultures. It investigated two social functions in detail: music preferences as expressions of personal and cultural values, and the social bonding function of shared music preferences. Furthermore, this thesis explored how these social functions relate to personal and cultural functions of music. This broader perspective offered an integration of the social functions into a holistic topography of musical functions. Six cross-cultural studies were conducted with the overarching objective to advance research on social functions of music preferences in cross-cultural contexts. Studies 1 and 2 explored the associations between music preferences and personal and cultural values drawing on Attitude-Function Theory and Expectancy-Value Theory. Study 1 revealed that preferences for global music styles (such as Rock, Pop and Classical music) were consistently associated with personal value orientations across four cultures and across two value measurements. Study 2 explored the tendency of societies to appreciate global music styles in association with their cultural values. Findings of a multicultural study and a meta-analysis confirmed that cultural values were related to societal music appreciation. Studies 1 and 2 advance our understanding of people's musical choices based on personal and cultural values. Studies 3 and 4 tested a novel model illuminating social bonding through shared music preferences. The model proposes that the value-expressive function of music preferences plays a crucial role in musical social bonding. Two studies supported the model empirically. A dyadic study among roommates in Hong Kong (Study 3) demonstrated that roommates who shared music preferences had similar value orientations, which contributed to perceived similarity between roommates leading to interpersonal attraction. The social perception experiment (Study 4) among German Metal and Hip-hop fans showed that shared music preference with a musical ingroup member was a robust vehicle for social bonding. In both studies, musical social bonding was facilitated by value similarity. Studies 5 and 6 offered holistic psychological investigations situating and relating individual, social, and cultural functions of music as perceived and used by culturally diverse samples. While the multicultural qualitative Study 5 identified a variety of personal, social and cultural functions of music, the quantitative Study 6 aimed to measure a selected number of these functions. Both studies revealed that the social bonding function of music was closely related to the value-expressive function. The social bonding function represented the centre of a holistic topography of musical functions. Its importance was independent of cultural background and socio-demographic variables in the present samples indicating universal characteristics. The findings of this thesis contribute novel perspectives to contemporary music reception research as well as cross-cultural psychology. Using an explicit cultural-comparative approach beyond previous mono-cultural social psychological research on music it advances our understanding of music in a global context. It revealed that people use music similarly across cultures for expressing values, for social bonding and for multiple other functions. This thesis underscores that music is a powerful prosocial resource.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Liu, James H; Fischer, Ronald