Friday, October 16, 2015

Music's innies and outies

Like belly buttons, listeners tend to be either innies or outies, depending on their age.

That is suggested in a new study by psychologists Jenny Groarke and Michael Hogan of the National University of Ireland in Galway. They find that for younger people listening to music is a social experience, a way of bonding with friends and loved ones or staking a claim to membership in a peer group, while for older listeners listening is an inner, spiritual experience.

For the study, published in the journal Psychology of Music (subscription required for access online), Groarke and Hogan surveyed two small groups of volunteers between 18 and 30 years old and two groups aged 60 to 85. (Middle-aged listeners were not surveyed.)

There is, of course, some overlap between innie and outie listeners – mainly among those who listen to reduce stress or enhance their mood.

Such “emotional regulation,” however, “may be a secondary outcome of music listening,” writes Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard. “While some younger participants did refer to music’s ability to provide them with a private ‘personal space,’ the bulk of the responses suggest older people are more interested in music as an intense, inner experience, while younger ones view it as a way of escaping bad moods and connecting with friends.”

Jacobs’ report on the study: