Does Reality Television-Style Singing Influence Singing Self-Concept?



      Due to upward social comparison, we hypothesized that exposure to reality television singing (a technically demanding style of contemporary commercial music singing) would negatively influence singing self-concept compared to hearing amateur singers or plain, unembellished singing by professionals.

      Study Design and Methods

      A between-subjects, online experiment was used. A sample of 212 individuals (Mage = 33.14; 69.30% female) participated in the study. After completing a background section, participants were randomly allocated into one of the experimental conditions (hearing one of four versions of a well-known song: a control version with piano and no singing, amateur singing, professional plain singing, and professional singing in the style of reality television singing). Participants were then asked to judge the performance they heard and to respond to items concerning their singing self-concept (including singing ability).

      Results and Conclusions

      A series of ANCOVAs was used to examine the impact of the experimental condition on the participants’ performance judgments and singing self-concept. The amateur singing was judged as the lowest quality. While there was no significant difference by experimental condition regarding possessing good singing ability, the experimental condition did affect people's singing aspirations and perceived ability to sing along with the performers. The pattern of results suggests that exposure to reality television-style singing may have negative impacts on people's singing self-concept via upward social comparison. Self-concept has been identified as an important predictor of musical engagement and participation and plays a role in motivating action. These results encourage music educators, singing voice pedagogues, and community musicians seeking to promote musical and singing participation to be aware of cultural influences on an individual's singing self-concept.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Voice
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Butler A.
        The judges’ decision is final: judgement in music talent reality TV and school music education.
        J Popular Music Educ. 2019; 3: 399-415
        • Negra D
        • Pike K
        • Radley E.
        Gender, nation, and reality tv.
        Tel New Media. 2013; 14: 187-193
        • de Bruin J
        • Zwaan K
        in: Zwaan K de Bruin J Adapting Idols: Authenticity, Identity and Performance in a Global Television Format. Routledge, 2016: 1-10
      1. Semeraro E. By the numbers: America's favorite reality singing shows. Broadcast+Cable. Published March 22, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2022.

        • Cheng W.
        Staging overcoming: narratives of disability and meritocracy in reality singing competitions.
        J Soc Am Music. 2017; 11: 184-214
        • Allen K.
        Girls imagining careers in the limelight: social class, gender and fantasies of “success”.
        in: Negra D Holmes S In the Limelight and under the Microscope: Forms and Functions of Female Celebrity. Bloomsbury, 2011: 149-173
        • Allen K
        • Mendick H.
        Keeping it real? Social class, young people and ‘authenticity’ in reality TV.
        Sociology. 2013; 47: 460-476
        • Fairchild C.
        Building the authentic celebrity: the “Idol” phenomenon in the attention economy.
        Popular Music Soc. 2007; 30: 355-375
        • Holmes S.
        “Reality goes pop!”: reality TV, popular music, and narratives of stardom in Pop Idol.
        Tel New Media. 2004; 5: 147-172
        • Meyer D
        • Edwards M.
        The future of collegiate voice pedagogy: SWOT analysis of current practice and implications for the next generation.
        J Singing. 2014; 70: 437-444
        • Robinson DK.
        TV talent shows: navigating the minefield.
        J Singing. 2014; 70: 585-590
        • Hartwig K
        • Riek R.
        Choir in the age of “The Voice”.
        Austra J Music Educ. 2015; : 37-46
        • Bartlett I.
        Crossing style borders: new inroads in training teachers of singing.
        Voice Speech Rev. 2020; 14: 184-195
        • Arditi D.
        • Arditi D
        The voice: popular culture and the perpetuation of ideology.
        Getting Signed: Record Contracts, Musicians, and Power in Society. Springer International Publishing, 2020: 179-206
        • LeBorgne WD
        • Rosenberg M.
        The Vocal Athlete.
        2nd ed. Plural Publishing, 2021
        • Edwin R.
        Belt is legit.
        J Singing. 2007; 64: 213-215
        • Kochis-Jennings KA
        • Finnegan EM
        • Hoffman HT
        • et al.
        Laryngeal muscle activity and vocal fold adduction during chest, chestmix, headmix, and head registers in females.
        J Voice. 2012; 26: 182-193
        • Chong HJ
        • Choi JH
        • Lee SS.
        Does the perception of own voice affect our behavior?.
        J Voice. 2022; (Published online March 13)
        • Dalla Bella S
        • Giguère JF
        • Peretz I
        Singing proficiency in the general population.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 2007; 121: 1182-1189
        • Welch GF.
        We are musical.
        Int J Music Educ. 2005; 23: 117-120
        • Hallam S
        21st century conceptions of musical ability.
        Psychol Music. 2010; 38: 308-330
        • Howe MJA
        • Davidson JW
        • Sloboda JA.
        Innate talents: reality or myth?.
        Behav Brain Sci. 1998; 21: 399-407
        • Pfordresher PQ
        • Demorest SM.
        The prevalence and correlates of accurate singing.
        J Res Music Educ. 2020; 69: 5-23
        • Welch G.
        The Misunderstanding of Music.
        University of London, Institute of Education, 2001
        • Honing H.
        Music Cognition: The Basics.
        Routledge, 2022
        • Abril CR.
        I have a voice but I just can't sing: a narrative investigation of singing and social anxiety.
        Music Educ Res. 2007; 9: 1-15
        • Sloboda JA
        • Wise KJ
        • Peretz I.
        Quantifying tone deafness in the general population.
        Ann NY Acad Sci. 2005; 1060: 255-261
        • Peretz I
        • Vuvan DT.
        Prevalence of congenital amusia.
        Eur J Hum Genet. 2017; 25: 625-630
        • Larrouy-Maestri P
        • Wang X
        • R Vairo Nunes
        • et al.
        Are you your own best judge? On the self-evaluation of singing.
        J Voice. 2021; (Published online May 16):S0892199721001235
        • O'Neill S.
        The self-identity of young musicians.
        in: Hargreaves D Miell D MacDonald R Musical Identities. Oxford University Press, 2002: 79-96
        • Rickard NS
        • Chin T.
        Defining the musical identity of “non-musicians.”.
        in: MacDonald R Hargreaves DJ Miell D Handbook of Musical Identities. Oxford University Press, 2017 (Accessed June 5, 2020)
        • Zhang JD
        • Susino M
        • McPherson GE
        • et al.
        The definition of a musician in music psychology: a literature review and the six-year rule.
        Psychol Music. 2020; 48: 389-409
        • Hallam S
        Musical identity, learning, and teaching.
        in: MacDonald R Hargreaves DJ Miell D Handbook of Musical Identities. Oxford University Press, 2017: 475-492 (Accessed June 15, 2020)
        • Lamont A.
        Musical identities and the school environment.
        in: MacDonald R Hargreaves DJ Miell D Musical Identities. Oxford University Press, 2002: 41-59
        • Krause AE
        • Kirby ML
        • Dieckmann S
        • et al.
        From dropping out to dropping in: exploring why individuals cease participation in musical activities and the support needed to reengage them.
        Psychol Aesth, Creat Arts. 2020; 14: 401-414
        • Demorest SM
        • Kelley J
        • Pfordresher PQ.
        Singing ability, musical self-concept, and future music participation.
        J Res Music Educ. 2017; 64: 405-420
        • Miller C
        • Poston M.
        Exploring Communication in the Real World.
        College of DuPage Digital Press, 2022
        • Lamont A.
        Musical identity, interest, and involvement.
        in: MacDonald R Hargreaves DJ Miell D The Handbook of Musical Identities. Oxford University Press, 2017: 176-196 (Accessed June 8, 2020)
        • Oyserman D.
        Self-concept and identity.
        in: Tesster A Schwarz N The Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology. Blackwell, 2001: 499-517
        • Markus H
        • Kunda Z.
        Stability and malleability of the self-concept.
        J Personality Social Sychol. 1986; 51 (Accessed March 24, 2022): 858-866
        • Festinger L.
        A theory of social comparison processes.
        Hum Relat. 2022; 7: 117-140
        • Dijkstra P
        • Gibbons FX
        • Buunk AP.
        Social comparison theory.
        Social Psychological Foundations of Clinical Psychology. The Guilford Press, 2010: 195-211
        • Wills TA.
        Downward comparison principles in social psychology.
        Psychol Bull. 1981; 90: 245-271
        • Wood JV.
        Theory and research concerning social comparisons of personal attributes.
        Psychol Bull. 1989; 106: 231-248
        • Smith RH.
        Assimilative and contrastive emotional reactions to upward and downward social comparisons.
        Handbook of Social Comparison. Springer, 2000: 173-200
        • Dweck CS.
        Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
        Ballantine Books, 2008
      2. Cogdill S. The identification of factors contributing to first-year college students’ mindset of singing ability, and the relationship of that mindset to intent to participate in singing activities. Doctor of Philosophy. University of Nebraska; 2013.

        • de Vries DA
        • Möller AM
        • Wieringa MS
        • et al.
        Social comparison as the thief of joy: emotional consequences of viewing strangers’ instagram posts.
        Media Psychol. 2018; 21: 222-245
        • Wheeler L
        • Miyake K.
        Social comparison in everyday life.
        J Pers Soc Psychol. 1992; 62: 760-773
        • Daykin N
        • Mansfield L
        • Meads C
        • et al.
        What works for wellbeing? A systematic review of wellbeing outcomes for music and singing in adults.
        Perspect Public Health. 2018; 138: 39-46
        • Krause AE
        • Davidson JW
        • North AC.
        Musical activity and well-being: a new quantitative measurement instrument.
        Music Perception. 2018; 35: 454-474
        • Forbes M
        • Krause AE
        • Lowe-Brown X
        Descriptions and evaluations of “good singing” in the age of The Voice.
        Australian Voice. 2021; 22: 17-28
        • Kreutz G
        • Schubert E
        • Mitchell LA.
        Cognitive styles of music listening. Music Perception.
        An Interdisciplinary J. 2008; 26: 57-73
        • Müllensiefen D
        • Gingras B
        • Musil J
        • et al.
        The musicality of non-musicians: an index for assessing musical sophistication in the general population.
        PLoS One. 2014; 9: e89642
        • Tierney A
        • Patel AD
        • Jasmin K
        • et al.
        Individual differences in perception of the speech-to-song illusion are linked to musical aptitude but not musical training.
        J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2021; 47: 1681-1697
        • Ferreri L
        • Singer N
        • McPhee M
        • et al.
        Engagement in music-related activities during the COVID-19 pandemic as a mirror of individual differences in musical reward and coping strategies.
        Front Psychol. 2021; 12 (Accessed March 31, 2022)
        • Swaminathan S
        • Kragness HE
        • Schellenberg EG.
        The musical ear test: norms and correlates from a large sample of Canadian undergraduates.
        Behav Res. 2021; 53: 2007-2024
        • Baker DJ
        • Ventura J
        • Calamia M
        • et al.
        Examining musical sophistication: a replication and theoretical commentary on the Goldsmiths Musical Sophistication Index.
        Musicae Sci. 2020; 24: 411-429
        • Spychiger MB.
        From musical experience to musical identity: Musical self-concept as a mediating psychological structure.
        in: MacDonald R Hargreaves W Miell D Handbook of Musical Identities. Oxford University Press, 2017: 267-287 (Accessed June 5, 2020)
        • Fiedler D
        • Spychiger MB.
        Measuring “musical self-concept” throughout the years of adolescence with MUSCI_youth: validation and adjustment of the Musical Self-Concept Inquiry (MUSCI) by investigating samples of students at secondary education schools.
        Psychomusicol Music Mind Brain. 2017; 27: 167-179
        • Forbes M
        • Bartlett I.
        “It's much harder than I thought”: Facilitating a singing group for people with Parkinson's disease.
        Int J Commun Music. 2020; 13: 29-47
        • Goldenberg RB.
        Singing lessons for respiratory health: a literature review.
        J Voice. 2018; 32: 85-94
        • Tamplin J
        • Morris ME
        • Marigliani C
        • et al.
        ParkinSong: a controlled trial of singing-based therapy for Parkinson's disease.
        Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2019; 33: 453-463
        • Dingle GA
        • Clift S
        • Finn S
        • et al.
        An agenda for best practice research on group singing, health, and well-being.
        Music Sci. 2019; 22059204319861719
        • Forbes M
        • Bartlett I
        ‘This circle of joy’: meaningful musicians’ work and the benefits of facilitating singing groups.
        Music Educ Res. 2020; 22: 555-568