Music. We all know it's powerful, we all love to listen and a lot of us love to play ourselves. We instinctively know that it makes us feel better, but why?
Here are 5 amazing ways that music actually changes your thinking pattern, with information about the research into why.
1) You Feel Less PainBob Marley famously said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain!” And it seems he was on to something! Research has shown that patients with anxiety have demonstrated less arousal to pain stimuli when absorbed in a musical task. In a study conducted at the University of Utah Pain Research Centre, patients were asked to listen to musical songs, follow melodies and identify any unusual tones. Whilst doing this, they were given safe, experimental electric pain shocks. Patients who were anxious about receiving pain were reported to show significantly lower levels of arousal in response to the pain, whilst absorbed in listening to songs. The same pathways are stimulated from sound and pain, meaning that when both are being experienced at the same time, they compete with one another. Allowing yourself to be absorbed with music literally fights pain!
2) You Attach Emotions To Neutral FacesAnother study which demonstrates the amazing power of music was conducted by Logeswaran and Bhattachayara, in 2009. They presented 30 participants with a bunch of 15 second musical extracts, some happy and some sad. After each extract, he flashed for one second a picture of either a happy, neutral or sad face. They were then asked to rate the faces 1 – 7, extremely sad – extremely happy. Happy and sad faces were rated as happier or sadder when preceded by a piece of music of matching mood, and neutral faces were rated happier or sadder when they followed a happy or sad piece of music. So, next time you think someone is looking glum, maybe check that you didn't just listen to The Smiths!
3) You Reason BetterListening to music is one thing, but musical training actually makes you reason better! Research has been done into how musical training affects children's non-verbal reasoning skills, with results showing that children who received at least 3 years musical training outperformed those who didn't. Non-verbal reasoning included recognising relationships, similarities and differences between shapes and patterns. Like reading music or making art! Makes sense, doesn't it? And it's not just children who benefit from developing their reasoning skills!
4) You Become Less StressedListening to and playing music has been shown to lower the stress hormone, cortisol. A study in 2003 took 24 volunteers and exposed them to a standardised psycho-social stress test after being assigned to either listen to relaxing songs immediately afterwards, or rest with no music afterwards. The results showed that those who listened to relaxing music after the stress test ceased to experience an increase in cortisol, whereas those who sat in silence continued to experience an increase for 30 minutes. Music really does calm you down!
5) You Become More Benevolent!Fascinatingly, listening to uplifting music has a proven effect on how inclined we are to help others. After listening to uplifting songs, users of a university gym were proven more likely to sign a petition for a charity than those who listened to annoying sound. Also, songs with pro-social messages have shown an increase in tipping behaviour in restaurants! Maybe that's why the lady next door who sings at church is so nice?
So, there you have it. Some scientific explanations into why music does what it does to you.
What better excuse did you need to switch on your iPod / pick up your guitar or, even, go to a gig?
You can read more from Ged, here.