“Without music, life would be a mistake” –Friedrich Nietzche

Until the early 90s, we only imagined how music affected our mind. It wasn’t until the 1990s that people began to research the many ways music affects our brains using functional brain imaging. Now we have a few ideas of what happens when we listen to music. We know it gets processed in many different areas of our brain. Below you can see the major computations centers:

Jo-Michael Scheibe

  1. Happy/sad music affects how we see neutral faces: 

Our brains respond differently to happy music versus sad music. One study showed that after hearing a short piece of music in which they identified as happy or sad, the interpreted neutral expressions on others as happy or sad, whichever matched the tone of the music they just heard.  Another interesting note is that there are two kinds of emotions related to music: perceived emotions and felt emotions. This means we can recognize the emotion of a piece without actually feeling it- this concept is similar to sympathizing with someone else versus empathizing. This explains why some enjoy listening to sad music versus finding it depressing. We can perceive related emotions without feeling them, like vicarious emotions.

  1. Ambient noise can improve creativity:

When making our way down those to-do lists, most of us prefer to bump upbeat tunes.  However, when it comes to creative work, a moderate noise level of ambient music is the sweet spot. Moderate noise levels increase processing difficulty which promotes abstract processing, thus leading to higher creativity. When we are struggling to process things, we resort to more creative approaches. At high noise levels, our creative thinking is impaired because we are struggling to process information in an efficient manner. This concept is similar to the fact that a slightly more crowded place can be beneficial for our productivity, paradoxically.

  1. Our music choices can predict our personality

This has only been tested on young adults, so maybe take this one with a grain of salt.  A study of couples that spent time getting to know each other had one of the pairs look at the other’s top ten favorite songs and then predict the listener’s personality traits. The five personality traits were: openness to experience, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability.  Openness to experience, extraversion and emotional stability were the easiest to guess correctly.

I have five more conclusions from studies to share next month!