Music is an amazing thing. It can make you dance, sing, or even feel. In this blog post, I will investigate the last of those three, and see if there is any scientific evidence that shows how music affects our emotions.
According to a study done at the University of London, Music can affect how we see images, and the emotions that we correlate with them.
In the experiment, 30 subjects were presented with a series of happy or sad musical excerpts. After listening to the snippets, the subjects were shown a photograph of a face. Some people were shown a happy face – the person was smiling – while others were exposed to a sad or neutral facial expression. The participants were then asked to rate the emotional content of the face on a 7-point scale, where 1 mean extremely sad and 7 extremely happy.
The researchers found that music powerfully influenced the emotional ratings of the faces. Happy music made happy faces seem even happier while sad music exaggerated the melancholy of a frown.
This study was done on a group of 30 people, 15 male and 15 female, with an average age of 26.1, who were a part of this experiment with no cash incentive at all. I believe this group is a good example of a random sample, and there is little possibility of bias here. This experiment shows that there is in fact, an impact that music has on us, but it offers no sort of mechanism. While this study is useful to this blog, it is far from the end of my research.
One Professor Daniel Levitin believes that he has the solution to this issue. Professor Levitin is both a neuroscientist and a composer, so he has expertise on both ends of the spectrum necessary in this blog, so I am more than inclined to believe him. Levitin believes that the fact that the parts of the brain that control language, emotion, and memory are all linked, and work together to process music.
In this study, 834 participants were given a list of 129 functions of music, and rated them. The results of this study were as follows:
“People listen to music to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness. The first and second dimensions were judged to be much more important than the third—a result that contrasts with the idea that music has evolved primarily as a means for social cohesion and communication.”
This study was done on a group of volunteers who had the chance to win a tablet computer, but there is little room for bias because the tablet was awarded based on a random drawing, and the responses of the volunteers had nothing to do with their chances. The group of volunteers ranged from ages 8 to 85, and was 57% female, which is a pretty representative sample of the population as a whole. Once again, mood was measured as one of the most important functions of music, which further proves that music has a large impact on one’s mood, but still the mechanics of this remain a mystery to me.
This scientific journal, however provides at least an elementary explanation. Apparently, the tempo of the music is often what causes a shift in mood. When one is listening to music, they usually breathe in time with the music, whether they notice it or not, says the study. Because respiration and the cardiovascular system are so closely linked, this affects the heart rate as well. All of this together results in “an impact on a variety of neurophysiological systems in many ways similar to emotion-induced physiological changes.” This provides ample explanation that music is able to change our mood, and finally provides some sort of mechanism.
After researching extensively, I have found that music does affect our mood, and I have come across a process in which it does so. I would consider this blog to be a success due to this, and I hope it provides some insight into you music and mood choices. Happy listening!