Is empathy involved in our emotional response to music? The role of the PRL gene, empathy, and arousal in response to happy and sad music.

As earlier work has suggested that prolactin could be an important hormone in enhancing empathy while listening to sad music, we investigated whether two genetic polymorphisms located on the PRL gene could explain individual differences in reactions to listening to music

Mareike C. Sittler; Andrew J. Cooper; Christian Montag


Scholarcy highlights

  • Empathy, which can be defined as the ability to experience the emotional state of others and to put oneself in the shoes of another person, is essential for successful and fulfilling social interactions since it determines the appropriateness of an individual's reactions to the emotional states displayed by others
  • The affective component was measured with the subscales empathic concern and personal distress
  • The aim of the present research was to, firstly, investigate how empathic traits are associated with the emotional perception/experience of sad and happy music
  • Despite an association between the PRL gene and trait empathy not being found, we suggest that the PRL gene is involved in the experience of emotions while listening to music, in relation to levels of arousal in response to music
  • In relation to the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, significant positive correlations were found between FS and Empathic Concern and the emotional perception of sad songs
  • On that basis PD, which is a selfdirected aversive state when confronted with anothers distress, seems to facilitate empathic reactions when being exposed to sad music, whereas it hinders empathic reactions to happy music
  • The differences found between T- and C carriers in their physiological emotional reactions while listening to sad and happy songs can be interpreted in line with Hurons theory of an hedonic effect of prolactin

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