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Musical Enjoyment and Reward: From Hedonic Pleasure to Eudaimonic Listening

Reybrouck, Mark and Eerola, Tuomas (2022) 'Musical Enjoyment and Reward: From Hedonic Pleasure to Eudaimonic Listening.', Behavioral Sciences, 12 (5). p. 154.


This article is a hypothesis and theory paper. It elaborates on the possible relation between music as a stimulus and its possible effects, with a focus on the question of why listeners are experiencing pleasure and reward. Though it is tempting to seek for a causal relationship, this has proven to be elusive given the many intermediary variables that intervene between the actual impingement on the senses and the reactions/responses by the listener. A distinction can be made, however, between three elements: (i) an objective description of the acoustic features of the music and their possible role as elicitors; (ii) a description of the possible modulating factors—both external/exogenous and internal/endogenous ones; and (iii) a continuous and real-time description of the responses by the listener, both in terms of their psychological reactions and their physiological correlates. Music listening, in this broadened view, can be considered as a multivariate phenomenon of biological, psychological, and cultural factors that, together, shape the overall, full-fledged experience. In addition to an overview of the current and extant research on musical enjoyment and reward, we draw attention to some key methodological problems that still complicate a full description of the musical experience. We further elaborate on how listening may entail both adaptive and maladaptive ways of coping with the sounds, with the former allowing a gentle transition from mere hedonic pleasure to eudaimonic enjoyment.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited
Date accepted:17 May 2022
Date deposited:18 July 2022
Date of first online publication:19 May 2022
Date first made open access:18 July 2022

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