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Musical Reward across the Lifespan
Aging and Mental Health
  • Amy M. Belfi, Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Georgina L. Moreno
  • Maria Gugliano
  • For full list of authors, see publisher's website., For full list of authors, see publisher's website.

Music is ubiquitous. Despite the fact that most people find music enjoyable, there are individual differences in the degree to which listeners derive pleasure from music. However, there has been little focus on how musical reward may change across the lifespan. Some theories predict that there would be little change, or even an increase in musical reward across the lifespan, while others suggest that older adults may have decreased capacity for musical reward. Here, we investigated musical reward across the lifespan. Participants consisted of American adults ranging between 20-85 years old (n = 20 participants in each 10-year age bin). Participants in Study 1 completed the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire (BMRQ), which is a multi-dimensional assessment of musical reward. We found a negative correlation between age and BMRQ scores, suggesting decreases in musical reward across the lifespan. When investigating which components were driving this effect, we found that the music seeking subscale was the strongest predictor of age. Participants in Study 2 completed the Aesthetic Experiences in Music Scale (AES-M), which focuses on intense emotional responses to music. In contrast to the BMRQ, we found no relationship between age and scores on the AES-M, suggesting that strong emotional responses to music are consistent across the lifespan. These results have implications for the use of music as a therapeutic tool in older adults. In addition, this work points to the importance of considering age when investigating reward for music and suggests that the ways individuals experience music may change across the lifespan.

Psychological Science
Research Center/Lab(s)
Intelligent Systems Center
Publication Status
Online ahead of print.
Keywords and Phrases
  • Aging,
  • emotion,
  • music,
  • musical anhedonia,
  • reward
Document Type
Article - Journal
Document Version
File Type
© 2021 Routledge, All rights reserved.
Publication Date
Publication Date
01 Jan 2021
Citation Information
Amy M. Belfi, Georgina L. Moreno, Maria Gugliano and For full list of authors, see publisher's website.. "Musical Reward across the Lifespan" Aging and Mental Health (2021) ISSN: 1360-7863; 1364-6915
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