The Psychology of Sound: The Enduring Power of Radio


For many of us, listening to the radio plays a vital role in our day-to-day life. But just how exactly do our favourite radio stations and presenters affect us on an emotional level? To coincide with World Radio Day, we’ve conducted a survey of 1000 respondents to discover the powerful connection that listeners have with radio. We also explored how radio, in this modern age, continues to be a hugely relevant source of news, conversation and entertainment.

Can radio be the antidote to loneliness?

The UK is facing a loneliness epidemic, but our research reveals the strong emotional bond consumers place on radio presenters (whether from live radio or radio content like podcasts), with almost 60% of us forming a relationship with them akin to a family member or close friend.

While other mediums like TV and social media are criticised for fuelling the loneliness crisis, it’s clear to see the effect radio has when it comes to maintaining a positive mental wellbeing. When asked about the feelings induced by listening to radio, ‘happiness’ was cited as the top emotion. ‘Relaxed’ and ‘comfortable’ then make up the top three.

One in five Brits feel attached to more than one presenter, highlighting how strong the bond can be between radio presenter and listener. And when their favourite radio host leaves for a new station, the top two emotions listeners feel are ‘disappointed’ and sad’. In fact, our research reveals that almost three quarters of respondents (72%) would follow presenters to their new radio station, such is their devastation.

Even though radio is a personal affair, with over 80% of respondents listening by themselves, leading psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos attributes the sound of a familiar and friendly voice filling the space you are in as minimising the feeling of being lonely, despite being alone. 

Dr Papadopoulos adds: “There is something about the consistency of radio, the familiar voice that you can listen to across different locations, that makes it personal.  The consistency of voices, whether it is a DJ or a call-in show, evoke a sense of community and belonging; something that is a great antidote to feeling lonely. 

“Also, because radio uses voice rather than text or images to connect, it often allows for a more nuanced discussion and so feels less isolating than some media platforms. Finally, but really importantly, it’s also about what you listen to – from the songs that move you, to opinions that stimulate you, it can serve to foster a sense of wellbeing, community and belonging.”

Youth listening is on the rise

Our research also revealed that radio remains popular with younger listeners, despite the rise of music streaming and TV bingeing. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t complement each other. Half of young adults (16-34-year olds) listen to radio to enhance their experience of a TV programme and deepen their understanding of a show, including the likes of Love Island and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Additionally, this demographic (one in ten) trust radio more than newspapers and social media when it comes to news and current affairs. Increasingly, radio is also becoming a platform for youth voices to express their views and join in debates, as witnessed with LBC’s rising youth figures.

Pure’s Global Sales Director, George Tennet, commented: “We were encouraged that younger listeners view radio as a platform that shares their values for entertainment and current affairs.  If people view radio as an outdated medium, we hope our research results this World Radio Day prove that radio and radio content is very much alive and kicking!”

Driving radio listening forward

At Pure, we want to redefine radio and audio content for the modern day by offering a live and on-demand listening experience that can be enjoyed effortlessly, anywhere. And our research shows just how varied the list of involved activities is when people listen to the radio.

Coming out on top is ‘driving’, with listeners opting to soundtrack their daily commutes with radio. Pure’s Highway adapter range delivers a new world of audio in your car by giving drivers easy-fit access to the world of digital radio, control of Spotify and much more.

‘Housework’ and ‘cooking’ followed as the next most common activities. To help satisfy these listeners’ needs, we offer a varied range of compact, portable, stereo and connected radios to enjoy around the home and on the move.

World Radio Day takes place on Wednesday 13th February and was created by UNESCO to celebrate the medium’s storied history, while also looking forward to its exciting future. To find out more about the event, visit their website.

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