How music can alter the way you view the world

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Researchers from the University of Groningen have conducted an experiment showing the effects of music on our visual perceptions.

Mood, which influenced by music, directly alters the way we perceive our surroundings. 

The study was conducted on 43 healthy students. They were allowed to bring in their own playlist of songs which fell within the categories of happy and sad music.

Researchers gave the participants a visual stimulus and asked them if they observed a happy face, sad face or nothing at all.

As a control, researchers conducted a third condition where participants did not listen to any music.

The findings reveal that when participants were listening to happy songs, they reported more instances of observing a happy face. When they were listening to sad music, they recorded more instances of observing a sad face.

Compared to the control condition of no music, participants had higher correct instances of observing a face whether happy or sad.

The number of false alarms of observing a happy face when actually there was none was also higher when participants were listening to happy music.

Source: Jolij J, Meurs M (2011) Music Alters Visual Perception. PLOS ONE 6(4): e18861.

Mood affects the focus of processing. Negative mood is associated with ‘local’ processing or being concerned with specific details whereas positive mood is associated with ‘global’ processing or big-picture notions.

When participants were made to retell a story, participants in a negative mood reported details, whereas participants in a positive mood reported the crux of issue. 

The idea of a Bayesian Brain 

Recent literature has indicated the Bayesian functioning of the human brain, which provides predictions of our surroundings based on prior knowledge and observations that we already have. 

This study indicates that what we know and what we believe are not the only factors that affect our visual perception of our surroundings. Our emotions can directly alter our visual perceptions. 

Further Applications 

The application of these results are myriad. In the field of psychology, music can be used as a form of therapy or treatment for those who have mood disorders.

Music can also be used as a positive medium to immerse ourselves into deeper study. In the fields of art and theater, music can be a strong proponent for piquing people’s emotions.

How we relate to our natural world can be vastly altered by music. 

Listen to some upbeat songs to chase those Monday blues away! 

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