London | Forget conversation starters and witty one-liners, singing songs together may be a better ice-breaker and can get groups of people to bond together more quickly, a new Oxford study suggests. The study looked at how people attending adult education classes grew closer over seven months.
The conclusion singing groups bonded more quickly than creative writing or craft classes. One of the key differences between humans and other primates is that we can exist in much larger social groups, said Eiluned Pearce, from University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology, who led the research.
It’s been suggested that singing is one of the ways in which we build social cohesion when there isn’t enough time to establish one-to-one connections between everyone in a group, said Pearce.
We wanted to explore whether there was something special about singing as a bonding behaviour or whether any group activity would build bonds between members, she said. To test the theory, the researchers worked with charity the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in UK.
The WEA set up seven courses, four in singing, two in crafts and one in creative writing. Each course, made up of weekly sessions, was run over seven months, with a break in the middle. Those attending the classes were given surveys before and after individual sessions in the first month, in the third month and at the end of the seven-month course. In it, they were asked to rate how close they felt to their classmates.
The difference between the singers and the non-singers appeared right at the start of the study, Pearce said. In the first month, people in the singing classes became much closer to each other over the course of a single class than those in the other classes did, she said.
Singing broke the ice better than the other activities, getting the group together faster by giving a boost to how close classmates felt towards each other right at the start of the course, Pearce said. In non-singing classes ties strengthened as people talked to each other either during lessons or during breaks. But this is the first clear evidence that singing is a powerful means of bonding a whole group simultaneously, she said.
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