Musings On Music: Seven Insights From Psychology

Posted on August 26, 2020

Music and humans go back a very long way. The earliest accepted instruments, made from bones, appear on the European scene about 40,000 years ago. But for perhaps at least a million years before that, our ancestors had the throat architecture that in theory would have allowed them to sing.

Music is a human universal, but it’s true — not everyone enjoys music. In fact, as a 2014 paper published in Current Biology revealed, some perfectly healthy people can perceive music just like anybody else, but their reward-related neural circuits don’t respond to it. (These circuits do still respond to food or money, for example, so it’s not that they’re generally defective).

In fact, an estimated 3-5% of people experience “musical anhedonia”, and get no pleasure from music.

Some pieces of music have dramatic effects on us. “Peak emotional states” involve powerful physical responses, such as tears, or feeling “the chills”, and often extreme sadness or joy. They can be triggered by something inherently deeply meaningful — such as childbirth — but also by a beautiful view, or piece of music. A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports explored these reactions, and found that song-induced tears were associated with subsequent calming — they seem, then, to have a cathartic, relieving function.

Click on the link below to read the full article.


Source material from British Psychological Society