“Don’t hold back, sing with all of your heart,” said our colleague Simon Baron-Cohen on a Zoom meeting the other night with his fellow band members. Simon is director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University by day and bass player of the blues and funk group Deep Blue by night. His band and many others are taking to the Zoom airways to play music together.

One of the most encouraging phenomena we have begun to see in response to social distancing laws are the innovative ways that people are starting to bond with each other, particularly musically.

At the start of the lockdown in Italy, videos went viral on social media of neighbours singing with each other across their balconies. This trend also happened in Israel, Spain, Iraq, the US, France, Lebanon, India, Germany and other countries. And it wasn’t just balconies. People went to their rooftops, windows, and even online.

This need to bond – through music especially – relates to the fundamental features of being human. In some ways, amid the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing a global social psychological experiment that is giving us insight into what lies at the core of our humanity.

Social brains

We are innately social creatures. In fact, some scholars have argued that, on a biological level, the social brain in humans is more developed than that of any other species on earth. As such, we humans have a biological need to form bonds and cooperate with one another.

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