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Music’s Physiological Effects Transcend Culture

时间: 2015年03月23日 | 作者: | 来源: 科学美国人

Just the sounds of the 1960 movie thriller Psycho may be enough to get your heart racing.  Even when we may not be aware of it, hearing music can affect our bodies as well as our minds.

 

But are the physiological effects of music unique to one culture or are they more general? To find out, researchers enlisted 40 Canadians from downtown Montreal and 40 Pygmies from the Congo rainforest. All the volunteers listened to musical clips from the movies Psycho, Star Wars and Schindler’s List, and to music from Pygmy culture. As the participants listened, the researchers observed their emotional reactions, as well as psychophysiological responses like changes in heart rate, breathing rate and palm-sweat production.

 

The two groups disagreed about whether a particular musical selection was happy or sad. But they all had similar levels of arousal, as measured by their psychophysiological responses.

 

These findings suggest that some aspects of how we react to music are universal, rather than strictly cultural. The study is in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. [Hauke Egermann et al., Music induces universal emotion-related psychophysiological responses: comparing Canadian listeners to Congolese Pygmies]

 

Fundamental acoustical features including tempo, pitch and timbre seem to be responsible for the similar responses of the Canadians and the Congolese Pygmies. Does that finding mean that science can help create the world’s most universally infectious pop song? On that front, science may be behind Pharrell Williams.

 

—Andrea Alfano

 

(The above text is a transcript of this podcast)