Differentiating busking from begging: A psychological approach

Ming Hon Robbie HO, Wing Tung AU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the research support that street performance is generally a beneficial element to public space, the legitimacy of street performance remains controversial. One critical issue is that busking is often confused with begging. With a psychological perspective, the present research examines the distinction of busking from begging. Two studies approached the problem from the viewpoints of street performers and passersby, respectively. Study 1 (N = 188) surveyed street performers on their reasons for street performance and reasons for why donations to street performance should be acceptable. The respondents could articulate various features of street performance along which busking could be similar to and yet distinguishable from begging. Study 2 (N = 189) experimentally compared busking and begging in how they could affect people’s perception of public space. Relative to public space with begging, public space with busking was perceived as significantly more comforting, more active, less prone to crimes, and overall more likeable. These descriptive (Study 1) and experimental (Study 2) findings help to clarify the difference between busking and begging: Street performance is not merely an act of soliciting donations in public space, but it also possesses artistic and entertaining qualities that can in turn make public space more favorable. The current findings can inform the policy making and regulations of street performance. Moreover, since the present research was conducted in Hong Kong, it contributes a cultural perspective to the literature on street performance. Copyright © 2021 Ho, Au.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0260781
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


Ho, R., & Au, W. T. (2021). Differentiating busking from begging: A psychological approach. PLoS One, 16(12), Article e0260781. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0260781


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