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  • Melissa Orquiza

Why Does Music Make Us Happy?

Updated: May 1, 2019

So many reasons, but do we truly know why?

Is this your happy place?

We’ve all experienced it. Your feelings get hurt, have a bad day, and if you don’t curb it, your emotions can spiral out of control. What do you do? Put on some fun tunes and groove into your happy place. But do we truly understand why our biological processes are overwritten by a bunch of melodies?

The paper, "The Effect of Memory In Inducing Pleasant Emotions with Musical and Pictorial Stimuli" was published December 5, 2018 in Scientific Reports. The neuroscience study by Finnish researchers at the University of Jyväskylä, has identified that if music specifically evokes personal memories, it has the power to elicit stronger emotions. The goal of the study was to investigate mechanisms that trigger pleasant or unpleasant emotions in either pictures or music.

According to the study,

“Music makes us happier than pictures. The music-based findings were more robust than pictorial stimuli in terms of triggering pleasant emotions. The number one reason is because it triggers positive emotions based on personal memories.”

According to Psychology Today,

“For this study, Finnish researchers in the at the University of Jyväskylä, led by the first author asked study participants to choose specific songs they'd hear while having their brain waves monitored using EEG. Interestingly, analysis of EEG-data suggests frontomedial theta activity is linked to the memory-evoking power of music.”

Participants were told to bring 4 pieces of music. 1) Joyful music based on a personal memory. 2) Joyful music that makes you happy just based on the way it sounds. 3) Music that makes you hate life based on personal memories. 4) Music that makes you hate life purely on how it sounds.

“Most significantly, the researchers found that while upbeat music (such as dance songs) reliably boosts someone's mood, the most potent factor for evoking powerful positive emotions and pleasure via music was linked to personal memories. Notably, the three feelings most strongly associated pleasant valence while listening to music were joy, strength, and relaxation.” If you like charts and data, take a look at this link.

So, next time you’re thinking, “I love this song!”, thank the ones you love for giving you the gift of happiness. But, how about the songs where you feel both happy and sad? We’ll delve towards the second part of the Finnish study to understand their descriptions of the “Paradox of Art” and contrast with other artists’ conceptualizations of the same paradigm.

Thanks for reading! Drop me a line if there’s a topic you’d love to discuss.

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