How music affects your brain – Be careful what you listen to


when-someone-tries-to-talk-to-you-when-youre-listening-to-musicMusic has the power to influence our moods and feelings. According to recent studies from University of Groningen, listening to decidedly happy or sad music can change our perception of the world.

Changes in our mood can deeply influence our feelings, altering the way we see the world around us. For instance, people tend to notice happy faces if they are feeling happy themselves.

A new study by researcher Jacob Jolij and student Maaike Meurs of the Psychology Department of the University of Groningen shows that:

“Music has an even more dramatic effect on perception:
even if there is nothing to see, people sometimes still see happy faces
when they are listening to happy music,
and sad faces when they are listening to sad music.”

Jolij and Meurs invited research participants to identify happy and sad smileys while listening to happy or sad music. Music had a huge influence on what the participants saw. Smileys matching the music were identified  accurately. When no smiley at all was shown, the subjects often thought they saw a happy smiley when listening to happy music, and a sad one when listening to sad music.

Jolij explained this phenomenon: “Seeing things that are not there is the result of top-down processes in the brain. Your brain continuously compares the information that comes in through your eyes with what it expects on the basis of what you know about the world. The final result of this comparison process is what we eventually experience as reality. Our research results suggest that the brain builds up expectations not just on the basis of experience but on your mood as well.”

It would seem then, that positive music might prove an excellent alternative (or companion) to antidepressants.

Has music ever changed the way you feel? What do you listen to when you’re happy? When you’re sad? Comment below, or chat with author Rebecca Laclair on Twitter at @WriterRLaclair.

Excerpts from this post are from University of Groningen’s article, “Music changes perception, research shows.”

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