Young people's topography of musical functions: Personal, social and cultural experiences with music across genders and six societies

Diana Boer, Ronald Fischer, Hasan Gürkan Tekman, Amina Abubakar, Jane Njenga, Markus Zenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


How can we understand the uses of music in daily life? Music is a universal phenomenon but with significant interindividual and cultural variability. Listeners' gender and cultural background may influence how and why music is used in daily life. This paper reports the first investigation of a holistic framework and a new measure of music functions (RESPECT-music) across genders and six diverse cultural samples (students from Germany, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, and Turkey). Two dimensions underlie the mental representation of music functions. First, music can be used for contemplation or affective functions. Second, music can serve intrapersonal, social, and sociocultural functions. Results reveal that gender differences occur for affective functions, indicating that female listeners use music more for affective functions, i.e., emotional expression, dancing, and cultural identity. Country differences are moderate for social functions (values, social bonding, dancing) and strongest for sociocultural function (cultural identity, family bonding, political attitudes). Cultural values, such as individualism-collectivism and secularism-traditionalism, can help explain cross-cultural differences in the uses of music. Listeners from more collectivistic cultures use music more frequently for expressing values and cultural identity. Listeners from more secular and individualistic cultures like to dance more. Listeners from more traditional cultures use music more for expressing values and cultural identity, and they bond more frequently with their families over music. The two dimensions of musical functions seem systematically underpinned by listeners' gender and cultural background. We discuss the uses of music as behavioral expressions of affective and contemplative as well as personal, social, and sociocultural aspects in terms of affect proneness and cultural values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-369
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-cultural differences
  • Gender differences
  • Music listening


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