Music and the Mind: New Research

I just received the January, 2022 issue of the academic journal Psychology of Music. I’m on the editorial board so I always pay close attention to what’s going on in this field. The 22 articles are technical and hard to read if you don’t work in the field, so I thought I would summarize a few of the articles here. By the way, these are the real, original titles. There’s a lot of great research taking place!

“I hate this part right here.” Henna-Riikka Peltola and Jonna Katariina Vuoskoski

The subtitle says it all: “subjective experiences of listening to aversive music.” The researchers interviews 102 people and asked them to talk about music they really hated. What features did it have? How did they feel when they heard it? Where did they usually hear it? How was hating this music similar to hating other things that you hate? (I like that last one.) They found that some people really, really hate “unpleasant music” but other people had “a more neutral attitude.”

“Ironically enjoyed music.” Annemieke van den Tol and Roger Giner-Sorolla

I think I’ve done this myself! What comes to mind for me is Blue Oyster Cult. Here’s how the authors define it: “Ironic enjoyment occurs when people enjoy music despite or because of it being evaluated as bad.” And you won’t be surprised at the findings: The researchers found that people don’t like it as much as “naturally enjoyed music” and that they think it’s funny that they’re listening to bad music. (Actually I really do enjoy Blue Oyster Cult, I just think it’s funny that I like it. Is that irony or not?)

“Performers of the Night.” Jolan Kegelaers and colleagues.

The researchers studied 163 electronic music artists. Thirty percent of them “experienced symptoms of depression/anxiety.” But it’s mostly good news; “the majority of these participants still demonstrated at least moderate levels of functioning and well-being.” (I think that sounds like good news…it depends on what a “moderate level” is). 55 percent said they had used drugs or alcohol “as a copying mechanism.” And “Sleep disturbance” is a big theme, no surprise there! Interestingly, staying up late at raves predicts both depression/anxiety and well-being.

“Non-random acts of kindness.” Sara Beck and John Reiser.

For my last article, I’ve chosen a happy, Mr. Rogers-type of finding. When preschoolers play musically with an adult, they’re more likely to help and share with them than when they spend the same amount of time in non-musical play. So during play time with your child, make sure to get music in there somehow.

Which title do you like the best?

Psychology of Music, Volume 50, Issue 1, January 2022.

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