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Musical Group Interaction and the Development of Empathy in Children                                                                                       

Author’s name and university affiliation

Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, University of Cambridge                         

Names and affiliations of other researchers involved in project, if applicable

Ian Cross, University of Cambridge, and Pamela Burnard, University of Cambridge                        


Musical interaction, empathy, intersubjectivity, empathy measures, children, musical program                        


Musical group interaction (MGI) is a complex social setting, with particular characteristics that require certain cognitive skills that may also elicit shared psychological states. We argue that many of these MGI-specific components may also be important for emotional empathy, the ability to experience another person’s emotional state and produce a relevant and supportive response. We thus hypothesized that long-term repeated participation in MGI could help enhance a capacity for empathy even outside of the musical context, through a familiarisation with and refinement of MGI empathy-promoting musical components (EMPCs). We tested this hypothesis by designing an MGI program for primary school children consisting of interactive musical games implementing various EPMCs. We ran the program for an entire school year and compared the emotional empathy of MGI children to control children using existing and novel measures of empathy before and after the program. Our results confirm our hypothesis: MGI children showed higher emotional empathy scores after the study compared to its beginning, and higher scores than control children at the end of the study. These findings shed new light on the emotional processes involved in musical interaction and highlight the remarkable potential of MGI for promoting positive social capacities such as empathy.                    




Contact details

Tal-Chen Rabinowitch: tcnr2@cam.ac.uk                        


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