3 Amazing Brain Benefits of Music

June 15, 2017

3 Amazing Brain Benefits of Music

We are all a huge fans of music. Sure, all of us have different tastes and preferences when it comes to the genre. But it all comes down to whether you listen to music or not. Of course, we already know that music has positive effects on our brain. But what does it do to our brain exactly? Since music is such a big part of our lives, I thought it would be interesting and useful to take a look at some of the ways we react to it.

1. Happy or sad music affects how we see neutral faces

We can usually judge if a piece of music is particularly happy or sad, but this isn’t just a subjective idea that stems from how it makes us feel. As a matter of fact, our brains actually respond differently to happy and sad music.

Even short pieces of happy or sad music can affect all of us. One research showed that after hearing a short piece of music, participants were more likely to interpret a neutral expression as happy or sad, to fit the tone of the music they heard. This also occurred with other facial expressions, but was most remarkable for those that were close to neutral.

Another thing that’s really interesting about how our emotions are affected by music is that there are two kind of emotions related to music: perceived emotions and felt emotions.

This means that sometimes we can understand the emotions constant of music without actually feeling them, which explains why several of us find listening to sad music enjoyable, rather than depressing.

Unlike in real situations, we don’t feel any real threat or danger when listening to music, so we can recognize the related emotions without truly feeling them– almost like sympathetic emotions.

2. Our music choices can predict our persona

Take this with a grain of salt, because it’s only been tested on adolescents (that I know of), but it’s still really interesting.

In a study of couples who spent time learning more about each other, taking a look at one another’s top ten favorite songs actually supplied fairly reliable predictions regarding the listener’s personality traits.

The research used five personality type for the test: openness to experience, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability.

Interestingly, some traits were more accurately predicted based on the person’s listening habits than others. For instance, openness to experience, extraversion and emotional stability were the easiest to guess correctly. Conscientiousness, however, wasn’t obvious accordinged to musical taste.

To simplify, here is the connection they have found:

  • Blues fans have high self-confidence, are creative, outgoing, gentle and carefree
  • Jazz fans have high self-esteem, are artistic, outgoing and at ease
  • Classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introvert and at ease
  • Rap fans have high self-esteem and are outgoing
  • Opera fans have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle
  • Country and western fans are hardworking and outgoing
  • Reggae fans have high self-esteem, are creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at ease
  • Dance fans are creative and outgoing but not gentle
  • Indie fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard working, and not gentle
  • Bollywood fans are creative and outgoing
  • Rock/heavy metal fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, and at ease
  • Chart pop fans have high self-esteem, are hardworking, outgoing and gentle, but are not creative and not at ease
  • Soul fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle, and at ease

Of course, generalizing based on this study is very hard. However looking at the science of introverts and extroverts, there is some clear overlap.

3. Music training can substantially improve our motor and reasoning skills

We generally assume that studying a musical instrument can be rewarding for kids, but it’s actually useful in more ways than we might expect. One research showed that kids who had three years or more musical instrument training performed much better than those who didn’t learn an instrument in auditory discrimination abilities and fine motor skills.
They also tested better on vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills, which involve understanding and analyzing visual information, such as identifying relationships, similarities and differences between shapes and patterns.

These two areas particularly are quite extracted from musical training as we think of it, so it’s fascinating to see how learning to play an instrument can help kids establish such a wide range of important skills.

Similar research shows this connection for exercise and motor skills in the same way, which is also interesting.