Musical Reward across the Lifespan


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

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1360-7863; 1364-6915

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2021 Routledge, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2021