Joining Our Voices Gets Us Together

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From ancient tribal gatherings to modern-day stadiums, the power of singing has been an undeniable force in bringing people together. Throughout human history, singing has played a crucial role in fostering social bonds and creating a sense of community. The harmonious act of singing is not merely a form of entertainment; it is a potent mechanism that activates endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our brains, promoting a sense of contentment and unity within large communities.

Singing has been a part of human culture since the dawn of our species, providing a means for early communities to bond and communicate. A great mechanism for bonding. Ancient cultures marked important events and rites of passage through song and dance. Whether it was a successful hunt, the changing of seasons, or significant life milestones, singing played a central role in communal celebrations. These rituals were not only a form of entertainment but also served to reinforce a sense of shared identity and cultural continuity among the group.

The release of endorphins during singing is not a mere coincidence; it is a physiological response that contributes to a feeling of uplift and happiness, and recent studies mention that it can have to do with the way our lungs work during singing. The synchrony of voices in choirs and at events like carol concerts amplifies the release of endorphins, creating a shared emotional experience that binds participants together. It has even been noted that the hearts of people who are singing together beging to beat in synchrony, possibly motivated by the fact that they are taking sinchronized breaths.

Researchers have conducted studies comparing the speed at which people bond when singing versus engaging in other activities.

The study* conducted by Oxford University in 2015, as published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, ilustrates the remarkable social bonding effect facilitated by singing. The study involved more than 100 participants engaged in weekly 2-hour sessions of singing, art, and creative writing classes at community centers in the United Kingdom.

The participants were asked to rate their perceived closeness to their classmates on a scale of one to seven, both before and after the single class session, at intervals of 1, 3, and 7 months. The findings of the study revealed a significant and unique impact of singing on social bonding compared to other creative activities.

After just one month of participation, singers reported feeling nearly two points closer to their classmates after a mere 2-hour singing class session. In contrast, participants in art or writing classes showed a more modest increase, being only about half a point closer than they were at the beginning of the class.

This study provides compelling evidence that singing has a profound and rapid effect on the establishment of social bonds. The elevated sense of closeness experienced by the participants in the singing classes suggests that the act of singing together acts as a potent catalyst for social cohesion, surpassing the bonding effects observed in other creative activities.

We find examples of communal singing in social situations in sports arenas. Football stadiums, for instance, become arenas of collective euphoria when fans unite in song to support their teams. The shared chants and anthems create a sense of belonging and identity among the crowd (of a same team), transcending individual differences.

In religious settings, such as churches, singing plays a central role in communal worship. The collective voices of a congregation joining in hymns or spiritual songs create an atmosphere of unity and shared devotion. Funerals and memorials, too, often feature communal singing as a way for mourners to find solace and support in each other’s company.

Singing together is a timeless and universal human experience that goes beyond entertainment—it is a profound tool for building and strengthening social bonds. The science behind the release of endorphins during singing, coupled with the shared vocal synchrony in group settings, underscores the unique power of this activity. From ancient rituals to modern-day gatherings, singing remains a harmonious thread that gets communities together, fostering a sense of connection, joy, and shared humanity. So, the next time you find yourself singing along with others, remember that you’re not just creating music; you’re contributing to human connection.

Article: The Ice-breaker Effect: Singing mediates fast social bonding, are published in journal Royal Society Open Science on 28 October: doi: 10.1098/rsos.150221.