A mind monitoring system that could ‘nudge’ people towards brain boosting activities.
A 15 second clip was enough to reveal aspects of personality.
People who like more sophisticated music, like opera and jazz are higher in openness to experience, research finds.
People who are open to experience are more likely to be imaginative, sensitive to their feelings, intellectually curious and seekers of variety.
Openness to experience, one of the five major facets of personality, is also linked to higher intelligence.
The study also found that those who like music that is unpretentious, relaxing and acoustic, like folk and country, tend to be more extraverted.
Extraverts are outgoing and energetic.
The final personality trait linked to musical taste was agreeableness.
Agreeable people tended to like all types of music more.
The study based its findings on putting music into one of five categories:
- Mellow – romantic and relaxing, like R&B, soft rock and adult contemporary.
- Unpretentious – relaxing country, folk and acoustic.
- Sophisticated – complex and dynamic, like opera, classical, jazz and world.
- Intense – loud, distorted and aggressive music, like rock, punk and heavy metal.
- Contemporary – includes electronic, dance, rap and Euro-pop.
Only the ‘sophisticated’ and ‘unpretentious’ types were related to personality, the researchers found.
Liking contemporary, intense or mellow music, therefore, does not tell us anything in particular about your personality.
The conclusions come from a survey of 22,252 people who were played unfamiliar clips of music just 15 seconds long and asked to rate them.
These were then compared with tests of the five personality factors: openness to experience, neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
The study’s authors write that…
“…people who have a need for creative and intellectual stimulation prefer unconventional and complex musical styles, and that people who are sociable and enthusiastic prefer musical styles that are energetic and lively.”
The authors conclude:
“These results corroborate that music – a form of self-expression that is ubiquitous across human cultures – communicates meaningful information about basic psychological characteristics.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Nave et al., 2018).
With age it is natural for the brain’s plasticity to reduce and there is also a loss of gray matter as it shrinks in size — but the process can be slowed.
An earworm is a song that is stuck going around in your head and there are scientifically proven ways to get rid of earworms.
An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm, is a song going around in your head that you can’t get rid of.
Some claim that earworms are like a cognitive itch, we scratch them by repeating the tune over and over in our heads.
Having a song going around and around in your head is a very common occurrence.
Almost everyone reports having experienced an earworm.
While some say an earworm is not a problem, others find earworms disturbing, distracting and even an obstacle to thinking.
An earworm is usually a pop song
One study asked 103 participants aged 15-57 all about their earworm experiences (Beaman & Williams, 2010).
Here’s what they found:
- Many earworms were pop songs, although adverts and TV/film themes and video game tunes were also mentioned.
- One-third generally experienced the chorus or refrain over and over again as an earworm, but almost half said that it varied.
- 10 percent of participants reported that earworms stopped them doing other things.
- Contrary to popular belief those with musical training were no more likely to experience earworms.
Searching for earworms on Twitter reveals people have all kinds of songs stuck in their heads.
From The Muppets theme tune, The Sound of Music tracks, to Richard Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony.
Similarly, this study revealed relatively little overlap between the songs going around in people’s heads.
This suggests that it’s more the song’s interaction with people rather than the song alone that creates the cognitive itch.
Not everyone was equally undisturbed by earworms though, the study’s authors write:
“Those who found the earworms most problematic were respondents who considered music particularly important.
These participants also reported experiencing earworm episodes of longer duration and harder to control than participants for whom music was of less importance.”
Participants reported using all sorts of techniques for trying to get rid of earworms like listening to other songs and doing some work (two even reported drinking alcohol) but generally fighting the earworm just made it stronger.
The reason for this is that, as psychologists have found, thought suppression can be counter-productive.
Chew gum to get rid of an earworm
One method for getting rid of earworms that has psychological research to back it up is chewing gum (Beaman et al., 2015).
For the research, some people were asked not to think about a song by David Guetta featuring Flo Rida and Akon called “Play Hard”.
Should you be unfamiliar with this life-changing masterpiece, here it is:
(People weren’t forced to watch the video as well — psychologists have some ethical standards you know.)
Sometimes participants chewed gum while trying not to think about the earworm song, other times they just sat there.
In the three minutes people just sitting there thought about the song around 10 times.
Those chewing gum thought about the song around 7 times.
Not bad seeing as they had just listened to the song and some had been told not to think about it — a method usually guaranteed to make you think of nothing else.
The study’s authors explain the phenomenon this way:
“…co-opting the articulatory motor programme to chew the gum impairs the involuntary recollection of an auditory image.
This is consistent with data showing that chewing gum can affect immediate memory for verbal material.”
Earworms can help you remember
Earworms are not all bad, though.
In fact, earworms help to strengthen memories when they first form (Kubit & Janata, 2021).
Indeed, earworms have a strong link to another oft-experienced effect of music: to bring a beautiful memory back to you.
Professor Petr Janata, study co-author, said:
“Scientists have known for some time that music evokes autobiographical memories, and that those are among the emotional experiences with music that people cherish most.
What hasn’t been understood to date is how those memories form in the first place and how they become so durable, such that just hearing a bit of a song can trigger vivid remembering.”
For the study, people were asked to watch videos while they listened to music they had not heard before.
Afterwards they tried to recall as much as they could from the video clips.
The results showed that when the song got stuck in people’s heads, creating an earworm, they also remembered more details from the video clip.
The more the song became an earworm, the more details they recalled.
In addition, when people listened to the tune again, their memory for the video was near perfect.
Earworms are more than just an irritation, said Dr Benjamin Kubit, the study’s first author, said:
“We typically think of earworms as random nuisance beyond our control, but our results show that earworms are a naturally occurring memory process that helps preserve recent experiences in long-term memory.”
Earworms lasting five years
For most of us earworms are relatively untroubling.
And if you are tempted to moan then just be thankful you’re not the 21-year-old described in a case report by Praharaj et al., (2009).
This man had had music from Hindi films going around in his head against his will for between 2 and 45 minutes at a time, up to 35 times a day, for five years.
Unfortunately, even powerful drugs couldn’t stop the music.
So I don’t want to hear any complaints about “We Will Rock You” or “Whomp – There It Is”.
Brain benefits of listening to music include feeling chills, promoting happiness, soothing problems, aiding sleep, motivation and mental energy.
Every fan knows the tremendous benefits and power that listening to music can have over both thoughts and emotions.
Great music can transform an ordinary day into something magical, even spiritual.
Listening to music can provide solace, release, strong sensations and more.
But the benefits of listening to music spread further still: right up from our genetic code, through our thoughts and bodies and out into how we relate in groups.
1. Feeling chills when listening to music
Have you ever felt chills down your spine while listening to music?
According to a study by Nusbaum and Silvia (2010), over 90 percent of us have.
How powerful the benefits of music, though, depends on your personality.
People who are high in one of the five personality dimensions called ‘openness to experience’, are likely to feel the most chills while listening to music.
In the study, people high in openness to experience were more likely to play a musical instrument, and more likely to rate music as important to them.
2. Happiness benefits of music
One of the benefits of music should be feeling the chills; if not, perhaps you should try a little harder.
A study contradicts the old advice that actively trying to feel happier is useless.
In research by Ferguson and Sheldon (2013), participants who listened to upbeat classical compositions by Aaron Copland, while actively trying to feel happier, felt their moods lift more than those who passively listened to the music.
This suggests that engaging with music, rather than allowing it to wash over us, gives the experience an extra emotional power.
3. Listening to music soothes relationship problems
Sad music and gloomy movies help to soothe the pain of relationship problems (Lee et al., 2013).
People having difficulties in their personal relationships are more likely to choose tearjerker dramas and downbeat music.
This is unusual, because sad people usually prefer fun comedies and upbeat music to turn their mood around.
However, there is something about experiencing relationship problems, such as a break-up, that makes people want similar emotional companionship.
4. Music motivates exercise
Listening to higher tempo music makes exercise easier and more effective (Patania et al., 2020).
Endurance exercise, like walking, running and cycling benefit most from high tempo music in comparison to resistance exercises like weight-lifting which benefit less.
People walking on a treadmill reported feeling they were exerting themselves less while listening to high tempo music.
Music with tempos of between 170 and 190 beats per minute may help distract people from the workout.
5. Music helps people overcome mental fatigue
Listening to music while running helps pump up motivation even when mental fatigue has set in (Lam et al., 2021).
While many people listen to music while exercising, this is the first study to demonstrate that the practice is effective for overcoming mental fatigue.
After listening to a self-selected motivational playlist, runners who were mentally tired displayed the same performance as those who were mentally fresh.
6. Listening to music benefits social connection
Listening to music is much more than just entertainment: it is a way for people to connect with each other.
Music is a point of conversation.
We listen to it while we’re with other people and we talk to them about it.
In the brain, neuroscientists have found that music promotes empathy and communication, lowers stress and helps release feel-good neurotransmitters (Greenberg et al., 2021).
7. Listening to music reduces blood pressure
Listening to music can help people deal with the stress and anxiety associated with having treatment for coronary heart disease.
A review of 23 studies covering almost 1,500 patients found that listening to music reduced heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in heart disease patients (Bradt & Dileo, 2009).
8. Sad music lifts you up
‘Mood management’ is the number one reason people love music.
And, all music fans know that listening to music can have a cathartic effect.
But, it’s still odd that, for some people, sad music can, under the right circumstances, improve their mood.
According to a study by Kawakami et al. (2013), sad music is enjoyable because it creates an interesting mix of emotions; some negative, some positive.
Crucially, we perceive the negative emotions in the music, but don’t feel them strongly.
(Read more: Why Do We Enjoy Listening to Sad Music)
9. Uplifting music boosts mental energy
Listening to uplifting music helps to boost mental energy (Riby, 2013).
People in the study who listened to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons demonstrated fiercer concentration, faster reaction times and higher emotional responsiveness.
The Spring movement, which is the first of four, was particularly good at improving cognitive function.
However, other types of upbeat music would probably work just as well, it does not have to be classical.
10. Music benefits epilepsy
Listening to Mozart can reduce the frequency of epileptic attacks, a review of the research finds (Sesso & Sicca, 2020).
Across 12 separate studies, listening to the piano music of Mozart daily was found to help treat epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a relatively common condition, affecting around one-in-a-hundred, that causes abnormal neuronal activity in the brain, leading to shaking movements, loss of consciousness and other symptoms.
Listening to Mozart just once, though, helps to reduce the frequency of abnormal brain activity and seizures.
11. See happiness everywhere
One of the benefits of music is that it can make you feel different, but as little as 15 seconds of music can change the way you judge the emotions on other people’s faces as well.
A study by Logeswaran et al. (2009) found that a quick blast of happy music made participants perceive other’s faces as happier.
The same was true for a snatch of sad music.
The biggest effect was seen when people looked at faces with a neutral expression.
In other words: people projected the mood of the music they were listening to onto other people’s faces.
12. Listening to music linked to colours
Listening to music naturally makes people think of certain colours.
Across different cultures, people pair particular types of music with particular colours.
In a study by Palmer et al. (2013), people from both Mexico and the US showed remarkable similarities in connecting duller, darker colours with sadder pieces of music and lighter, more vivid colours with happier music.
A follow-up study showed that these music-to-colour associations were seen because of the emotional content of the music.
13. Music benefits stroke sufferers
In 60 percent of people who have a stroke, the visual areas of the brain are affected.
This leads to ‘visual neglect’: the patient loses awareness of objects on the opposite side to where the brain has been damaged.
But, studies have found, when patients listen to their favourite music, some of their visual attention is restored (Tsai et al., 2013).
So, the benefits of music can be an important tool in rehabilitation for stroke patients.
14. Listening to music aids sleep
Two-thirds of people listen to music to help them sleep, one survey finds (Trahan et al., 2018).
People believe that music helps them sleep by blocking out noises and distracting them from wakeful thoughts.
Indeed, studies are starting to show that music can be an effective sleep aid.
Classical music was the most popular genre people used to help them sleep, followed by rock, pop and acoustic.
Here is the full list, from most to least frequently used:
People with autistic traits in particular benefitted from the musical training.
Punk, heavy metal, death metal, emo and screamo — study tests if extreme music really causes anger or calms the listener down.
“I sort of feel that my breathing is going with the song, my heart is beating slower and I’m feeling just more aware of the song…”
Getting goose bumps or a lump in your throat while listening to music is relatively rare, research finds.
It could be an indication that your brain is unique, according to recent research that examined how the feeling of chills is triggered.
People who feel chills from music have an enhanced ability to feel emotions.
This could be down to a structural difference in the brain.
If you assumed everyone could feel the same chills you do, then think again, write the researchers:
“Although these emotion and reward systems are found in all humans, not everyone experiences intense emotional responses to music…
…some individuals report being unable to experience pleasure from music despite normal responses to other rewards (e.g. monetary rewards).”
For some, though, the experience is intense, they write:
“Individuals tend to report a complex array of bodily and mental sensations while listening to music, such as the feeling of a lump in the throat, feeling moved and the experience of chills: the tingling sensation on the scalp, back of the neck and spine that is often accompanied by goose bumps.”
Brain scans of 20 students, half of whom said they experienced chills, revealed denser structures in fibres that connect the auditory cortex to the brain’s emotional centres.
Mr Matthew Sachs, the study’s first author said:
“The idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions means that you have more efficient processing between them.”
Alissa Der Sarkissian, who is a friend of Mr Sachs, described the chills she gets from music like this:
“I sort of feel that my breathing is going with the song, my heart is beating slower and I’m feeling just more aware of the song — both the emotions of the song and my body’s response to it,”
The study was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Sachs et al., 2016).
The lyrics of number-one hits reflect our increasing social disconnection.
The study helps explain why comparatively light-hearted and childish entertainments can be so meaningful to people.