How music changes our perception

Depending on the music we feel different touches

The type of music you listen to affects how we feel a touch © TongRo / thinkstock
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Subtle manipulation: It's no coincidence that we like to play romantic music to cuddle. Because the music influences our perception of touch, as evidenced by an experiment. We involuntarily perceive a gentle caressing as sensual, if it sounds appropriate music - and no matter who is touching us. Because this subtle manipulation of our senses works even when a robot strokes us.

Music is deeply rooted in our nature: even the unborn react to harmonious sounds, music arouses great feelings and can even have a healing effect - for the mind and the body at the same time. Even our gene activity changes when we listen to music.

Music influences touch perception

Another effect of music has now been discovered by researchers led by Tom Fritz from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. For their study they had examined how different pieces of music act on touch. The trick: The touch was "incognito" - behind a curtain. Therefore, the subjects did not know whether they stroked a robot with a brush or a human.

It turned out: What kind of music we hear also influences how we perceive touch. "We've noticed that the more seductively we experience touching, the more enchantingly we feel the music we hear, " explains Fritz. "Certain features of the music seem to be transferred to the touch stimulus."

Also works with the robot

The interesting thing is that even when the subjects learned before the experiment that they were being stroked not by a real human, but by a robot, the music influenced how sexy the touch was perceived. This proves that the transfer effects of music on touch must be based on very fundamental mechanisms - and not on the idea of ​​a person of a certain gender and level of attractiveness. display

Even if the subjects knew that a robot performed the soft stroking, the music worked. MPI CBS

A possible explanation could be that the emotional expression of individual musical sounds follows the same dynamic as that of a touch. A sad sound is thus processed in terms of its rhythm similar to a sad touch, an aggressive as well as an aggressive touch. Accordingly, for more accurate processing of music, we access areas in the brain that are responsible for both touch and movement.

Social putty

"Our results also illustrate the evolutionary importance of music as a social technology, " explains Fritz. By influencing our perception, the right music can help to create a positive group feeling. It directs our behavior in groups as well as in relationships and ultimately can even influence our sexual selection and reproduction.

As the researchers explain, their findings contradict a hypothesis of the well-known cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, after the music is just an "auditory cheesecake", so a pleasant dessert. From his point of view, music is therefore of minor importance from an evolutionary point of view and no more than a by-product of language. But the profound effect of the music speaks in the opinion of Fritz and his colleagues against this thesis. (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2017; doi: 10.1037 / xge0000329)

(Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, 06.09.2017 - NPO)