@RealScientists explores Music Psychology


From 30 October – 5 November 2016, I guest curated the Twitter account @RealScientists. This account has a global following of nearly 40,000 people. Throughout the week, I led discussions on why humans love music, how we use it, and its effect on us. Discussions ranged widely, reflecting the content I introduced as well as questions from followers. We also spent a day discussing research and policy in non-academic settings and how this work complements research conducted by universities, which led to a discussion on academic pathways and being active scientists in all kinds of settings.

My introductory blog post can be found here. 

Each day’s discussion is Storified by day below.

Day 1: In which I introduce myself, the discipline of music psychology, and the main themes for the week based on my area of expertise.  An evolutionary frame for thinking about the reasons why we make and enjoy music is introduced, and we discuss theories for music’s ‘utility’ – regulating emotion states, creating a shared emotion state, and facilitating empathy, which leads to more pro-social behaviours.

Day 2: In which we discuss musicality, amusia, perfect pitch, the reward system and music anhedonia, We also address background music, earworms, and melody vs. lyrics.

Day 3: In which we discuss babies, music, and motherese – and even a bit about pets. We poke a hole in the Mozart effect and discuss what music communicates.

Day 4: In which we discuss how we use music, why we like sad music, how music promotes empathy, some thoughts on mental/brain health and well-being (along with a few app suggestions), the power of music in a range of settings, and what kind of music is most likely to move us.

Day 5: In which we go on a field trip to learn about research conducted outside of academia.  We discuss grey literature, advocacy, and how science and politics intersect, sometimes in unhelpful ways. This includes examples of positive psychology and climate change. We also consider the dichotomy between faith and science and the critical role that art has in advocacy.  Finally, we discussed citizen science opportunities.

Day 6: In which we start out unpacking the current academic job climate; changes at universities and changes in personal priorities mean many PhD’s find themselves working outside of the university system. We the moved on to a comparison of listening vs. creating music, singing and social cohesion, singing and empathy, more on earworms, and humming giraffes.

Day 7: In which we talk a bit more about Mozart vs. parents, the effects of shared rhythmic experiences, synchronicity in music-making, music therapy and autism spectrum disorders, music and Williams Syndrome, birds and motherese, a description of my research, and a wrap-up of the week.

Addendum: In which a theoretical discussion on the rocky terrain of using evidence for advocacy takes a real-life turn, as a climate change-denier challenges my assertion that climate change is literally killing us. A fascinating real-time exploration of evidence vs. entrenched thinking.



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