David M. Greenberg

Published On


Page Range

pp. 139–158


  • English

Print Length

20 pages

7. From the Sacred to the Ordinary through the Lens of Psychological Science

Spiritual elements of music have been interwoven into the very fabric of human existence of millennia, and arguably at the foundation of musical experience. Yet there is next to no empirical research on the spiritual nature of music in any of the social or biological sciences. Here the author presents initial findings from an ongoing research program that consists of five empirical research studies aimed mapping the role of spirituality in musical experiences. From situations that are sacred to the ordinary, the findings converge to show that aspects of spirituality are infused within individual and group experiences of music, from music-making and singing to passive listening and personal preferences. Further, the findings point to universal elements underpinning the links between music and spirituality and its ability to cross cultures, including serving as a bridge to bond conflicting cultures together. This research program lays an empirical foundation on which future research can build.


Yeshaya David M. Greenberg


Yeshaya David M. Greenberg is a psychologist and social neuroscientist. He is the founding director of CHIME (Center for Health Innovation, Music, and Education), and an honorary research associate at the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University. He has published the largest studies to date on autism (Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, 2018), on music and culture (Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 2022), and on theory of mind (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022).