People find comfort listening to same songs over and over: study

Researcher says the more times people listened to their favorite song, the more the listeners could hear it internally

February 16, 2018
PHOTO: Reuters

CHICAGO: University of Michigan (UM) researchers have found in a study that people enjoy replaying a favorite song many times even after the novelty and surprise are gone.

The study has been published in Psychology of Music.

The mean among the sample was more than 300 times, and this number was even larger for listeners who had a deep connection to the song, something that was particularly likely if they had mixed emotions, such as "bittersweet," while listening.

The study's 204 participants completed an online questionnaire in fall 2013 about their experience listening to their favorite song, including how it made them feel and the frequency with which they played the song.

About 86 percent of the participants reported listening to their favorite song daily or a few times weekly. Forty three percent of those who listened to daily replayed the song at least three times a day; 60 percent listened to the song multiple times consecutively; and about 6 percent indicated they urgently wanted to hear the song before they played it.

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"Clearly, these listeners were very engaged with these songs," said Frederick Conrad, UM professor of psychology and the study's lead author. "Niche listening may enable listeners to develop the kind of personally meaningful relationships with particular songs that allows their affection for those songs to persist across very large amounts of exposure."

Jason Corey, associate professor of music and a co-author of the study, said certain features of the song were particularly important reasons why respondents listened many times. The most important features were the song's "melody".

The more times people listened to their favorite song, the more the listeners could hear it internally, the researchers said.

"Listeners...should be able to 'hear' large amounts of the song in their heads, potentially including all the instrumental and vocal sounds," Conrad said.