Singing Together Helps People Bond Quickly

We have long known the power of a good sing-along. Now, research from the University of Oxford has shown that singing is a great ice-breaker and can get groups of people to bond together more quickly than other activities can.

The study, published in October 2015 in the Royal Society’sOpen Science journal, looked at how people attending adult education classes grew closer over seven months. The conclusion was that singing groups bonded more quickly than creative writing or craft classes.

Dr. Eiluned Pearce, from Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology led the research. A release from the university quotes Dr. Pearce as saying, “One of the key differences between humans and other primates is that we can exist in much larger social groups. Singing is found in all human societies and can be performed to some extent by the vast majority of people. It’s been suggested that singing is one of the ways in which we build social cohesion when there isn’t enough time to establish one-to-one connections between everyone in a group.

‘We wanted to explore whether there was something special about singing as a bonding behaviour or whether any group activity would build bonds between members.”

To test the theory, the researchers worked with charity the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education. The WEA set up seven courses, four in singing, two in crafts and one in creative writing. Each course, made up of weekly sessions, was run over seven months, with a break in the middle.

Those attending the classes were given surveys before and after individual sessions in the first month, in the third month and at the end of the seven-month course. In it, they were asked to rate how close they felt to their classmates.

Dr. Pearce said, “We had expected the singing classes to feel closer to each other than the other classes at the end of the seven months. However, we found something different.

“For every class, people felt closer to each other at the end of each two-hour session than they did at the start. At the end of the seven months, all the classes were reporting similar levels of closeness.

“The difference between the singers and the non-singers appeared right at the start of the study. In the first month, people in the singing classes became much closer to each other over the course of a single class than those in the other classes did. Singing broke the ice better than the other activities, getting the group together faster by giving a boost to how close classmates felt towards each other right at the start of the course.

“In the longer term, it appears that all group activities bring people together similar amounts. In non-singing classes ties strengthened as people talked to each other either during lessons or during breaks. But this is the first clear evidence that singing is a powerful means of bonding a whole group simultaneously.’


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