MUSIC INFLUENCES OUR PERCEPTION OF TOUCH
Music is a universal phenomenon that can arouse strong emotions such as joy, anguish, sadness or enjoyment. Music can evoke a sense of belonging and can be important to help humans live. She accompanies us in many moments of life.
Music can stress us or allow us to contribute to our well-being, and it can touch us deeply. Until recently, this was meant only figuratively, but a study reveals that it can do it literally.
Recently researchers discovered the power of music against cognitive decline (Alzheimer’s), and that listening to music influences depression and play can help protect brain health.
Other scientists in Germany have just noticed that touch is perceived differently depending on the music played. The more we perceive the music we listen to, the more we experience and imagine that we are touched by another person.
HOW DOES MUSIC CHANGE OUR PERCEPTION OF TOUCH?
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute (Cognitive and Brain Sciences, MPI CBS ), who are specialized in cognitive science, seem to have discovered important information: music influences our perception of touch. They noticed that the more we perceive music, the more we perceive the touch that is administered simultaneously.
The neuroscientists carried out this research using an intelligent experimental installation which involved a robot administering incognito touch. Study participants placed their forearms through a curtain where it was caressed by a controlled robot movement. At the same time, they listened to pieces of music, which they later rated on a scale: “not at all sexy” and “extremely sexy”.
In one of their experiments involving a human assistant, they found that the sensuality of music is transferred to the tactile experience. Here, participants thought they were touched by a person, but in reality, they were affected by the robot. Interestingly, when participants knew in advance that they would be caressed by a robot rather than by a person in the experiment, music always had the same effect with respect to the sensuality of touch.
THE EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION IN MUSICAL SOUNDS
The use of an automatic robot equipped with a brush made the duration and the intensity of the contact always different. This could also demonstrate that the observed transfer effects of music to touch are based on very basic (fundamental) mechanisms – rather than by a person’s imagination and independent of sex or a specific attraction of another person who listens to the same music.
Music seems to change our perception of touch. Some features seem to be transferred from music to touch. One explanation: emotional expression in musical sounds follows the same dynamic as an emotional expression with touch. Sad music is in some aspects treated in the brain in a similar way to a sad touch and aggressive music to an aggressive touch. To treat music, we use part of the brain areas related to touch and movement.
The transfer effects in which the sensory perceptions vary according to the surrounding music have already been observed for other senses. For example, we show a preference for richer and more vibrant colors, the stronger the music.
These results also illustrate the evolving relevance of music as “social technology”. Influencing our interpretation of touch and other senses direct our behavior towards groups and potentially even our sexual selection and reproduction.
Finally, the conclusions of this study contradict the hypothesis of the famous scientist and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker , who asserts that music can be simply an “auditory cheesecake”, that is, a delicious dessert but has no meaning from an evolutionary point of view and is more a by-product of the language.
Indeed, these results suggest that the effect of music is like the ubiquity of complex language. Through individuals and cultures and the unique mental conception that underlies them, no word or music appears foreign, even if one does not understand a word or note. The fundamental effect of music, as well as language, is a biological characteristic of the human species.