The universal effect of music on the body and emotion

The universal effect of music on the body and emotion

summary: A recent study revealed that the emotional impact of music transcends cultures, and elicits similar physical sensations globally. Researchers found that happy music activates the arms and legs, while sad tunes resonate in the chest.

This cross-cultural study, involving 1,500 participants from the West and Asia, links the sonic features of music to consistent feelings and physical responses.

The findings suggest that music’s ability to unify emotions and movements may have played a role in human evolution, enhancing social bonds and community.

Key facts:

  1. Emotional music elicits similar sensations in Western and Asian cultures, with happy music affecting the extremities and sad music affecting the chest area.
  2. The study, which included 1,500 participants, found that music’s influence is likely rooted in biological mechanisms, going beyond cultural learning.
  3. Music’s ability to synchronize emotions and physical responses among listeners may have evolved to promote social interaction and community.

source: University of Turku

Music can be felt directly in the body. When we hear our favorite catchy song, we are overcome with the desire to move to the music. Music can activate our autonomic nervous system and even cause shivers down the spine.

A new study conducted by the Turku Pet Center in Finland shows how emotional music elicits similar physical sensations across cultures.

“Music that evoked different emotions, such as happiness, sadness or fear, elicited different physical sensations in our study. “For example, happy and dancing music was felt in the arms and legs, while gentle and sad music was felt in the chest area,” explains the research fellow. At the Academy Vesa Potkinen.

This indicates a topographical model.
Music evokes similar feelings and physical sensations in Western and Asian listeners. Image source: Lauri Nominmaa, University of Turku

The emotions and physical sensations evoked by the music were similar between Western and Asian listeners. Physical sensations were also linked to the feelings caused by music.

“Certain sonic features of the music were associated with similar feelings in Western and Asian listeners. Music with a clear rhythm was found happy and danceable while dissonance in the music was associated with aggression.”

“Since these sensations are similar across different cultures, it is likely that music-induced emotions are independent of culture and learning and rely on inherited biological mechanisms,” says Professor Lauri Nominmaa.

“The effect of music on the body is universal. People turn to music in all cultures, and synchronized postures, movements and sounds are a universal sign of belonging.

“Music may have emerged during the evolution of the human species to enhance social interaction and a sense of community by synchronizing listeners’ bodies and emotions,” Potkinen continues.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Aalto University of Finland and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) through an online questionnaire. 1,500 Western and Asian participants rated the emotions and physical sensations evoked by Western and Asian songs.

Financing: The study was funded by the Finnish Research Council.

About Music and Emotion Research News

author: Thomas Koivola
source: University of Turku
communication: Thomas Koivola – University of Turku
picture: The top image is attributed to Neuroscience News. The image in the article belongs to Lauri Nominmaa, University of Turku

Original search: Open access.
“Somatic Maps of Musical Sensations Across Cultures” by Lauri Nominmaa et al. With people

a summary

Somatic maps of musical sensations across cultures

Emotions, physical sensations, and movement are an integral part of musical experiences. However, it is still unknown: i) whether the emotional connotations and structural features of music elicit discrete physical sensations and ii) whether these sensations are culturally consistent.

We addressed these questions in a cross-cultural study with Western (European and North American, n = 903) and East Asian (Chinese, n = 1035) populations. We presented participants with silhouettes of human bodies and asked them to indicate which areas of the body they felt their activity changing while listening to Western and Asian music pieces with different emotional and acoustic qualities.

The resulting somatosensation maps (BSMs) varied as a function of the emotional qualities of the songs, especially in the limb, thorax, and head regions. The emotions induced by the music and the corresponding BSMs were replicable across West and East Asian subjects.

BSMs clustered similarly across cultures, and cluster structures were similar for BSMs and self-reports of emotional experience. The acoustic and structural features of music have been consistently associated with ratings of emotions and physical sensations induced by music across cultures.

These findings highlight the importance of subjective bodily experience in music-induced emotions and show consistent associations between musical features, music-induced emotions, and bodily sensations across distant cultures.

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