Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children

Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children


Kirschner & Tomasello, (2010) found in a study of 4 year-old children, those who were engaged in music-making activities were more likely spontaneously help another child after a sudden accident such as spilling some pieces of a game or puzzle. In addition, the students who were involved in the music-making activities were observed to frequently offer more verbal excuses, even when they did not help. The researchers argue this demonstrates that children in the musical activity condition relative to the non-music activity group showed greater empathy and social commitment. In this way, musical activities have a positive effect on pro-social behaviour.

Some research suggests that it is the collective experience of music, singing, and dance which promotes a feeling of community. The researchers also conjecture that the musical songs used, which were of a cheerful nature, brought about a “music-specific evolved psychological mechanism” which aided in bringing about pro-social behaviour – a long-forgotten by-product of evolution. A final analysis is that music offers ways to develop “shared intentions”. That is, an innate desire to sing and move, is a collective intention which allows humans to share emotions, experiences, and activities.

Whatever may be the driving force behind the ability of musical activity to promote pro-social behaviour, we should encourage and offer children the unique opportunity and experiences of music education.


Kirschner, S., & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 354-364.

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