Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Leigh Anne Liu


Music and religion exist ubiquitously across time and space, hold profound phylogenetic importance to the human condition, and provide fruitful avenues for culture research. Existing norms, values, schemas, language, and mythological frameworks interact with auditory harmony, melody, and rhythm, within naturalistic settings, to condition profound psychological mechanisms with deep implications to the study of social psychology and culture.

Music has been and continues to be a normative tool in the use of religious ritualistic practice. Music has both the ability to facilitate changes in cognition and emotion on an individual level, while also strengthening group bonds and unifying a community at the social level. Religion represents a powerful cultural framework that one is typically conditioned to at an extremely early age and exerts massive pressure on the norms and values of the environment it exists in. This dissertation seeks to explore differences and similarities of music and religious practice across cultures and offers implications for the field of cross-cultural psychology.

The first essay is a quantitative paper that examines how one’s religion and how one practices their religion shapes their psychological mechanisms associated with the emotional construal of terror, within the naturalistic setting of the covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic many people have turned to their religious faiths for comfort and meaning in these existentially threatening times, however, many people have also found their ability to practice their religion effected by Covid-19, as well. The second essay will utilize a qualitative methodology to probe the use of music in ritualistic settings to understand cultural similarities and differences and what implications that may have for further understanding human cognitive and emotional capabilities and potentials. The final paper will be an interdisciplinary theory paper that borrows from social psychology, organizational psychology, musical psychology, and theology to propose mechanisms for how live musical practice in a communal setting interact to induce transformations in an individual’s sense of self. Often referred to as the “human obsession”, music is a unique communicative agent capable of arousing powerful cognitive and emotional responses in both the listener and performer across cultures.


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