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Durham University



Publication details for Professor Tuomas Eerola

Schäfer, K. & Eerola, T. (2020). How listening to music and engagement with other media provide a sense of belonging: an exploratory study of social surrogacy. Psychology of Music 48(2): 232-251.

Author(s) from Durham


The social surrogacy hypothesis holds that people resort to temporary substitutes, so-called social surrogates, if direct social interaction is not possible. In this exploratory study, we investigate social motives for listening to music in comparison to watching TV and reading fiction. Thirty statements about possible social reasons for the engagement with media were compiled. After 374 participants had rated their agreement with those statements, they were reduced to seven categories: Company, Shared experiences, Understanding others, Reminiscence, Isolation, Group identity, and Culture. The results propose that music is used as temporary substitute for social interaction alongside TV programs and fiction, but that it acts differently. Music listening might act as a social surrogate by evoking memories of relationship partners or through identification processes. There are overlapping motives between the domains, but the elicitation of nostalgia appears to be unique to music listening. The results motivate further investigation into the effects of music listening on socio-emotional well-being.