Notes can be found as interactive webpage at

3: Non-Visual Perception

Auditory Perception: Psychological Effects Of Music #

Effects Of Music On Cognition #

  • Music has been found to influence memory, decision making, and other cognitive processes
    • Study conducted in supermarkets found that use of slow background music increased sales by 38% over use of fast music - shoppers stayed in store longer and bought more, a lot more (Milliman, R.E., 1986)
      • Particularly effective for purchasing decisions with high affective/low cognitive involvement, e.g., jewelry, sportswear, and beer
    • Follow-up study found this is only the case for music in minor mode (Knoeferle, Spangenberg, Herrmann et al., 2011)
  • Study on effects of music on decision making (Hansen & Melzner, 2014)
    • Group 1: Listened to tritone or dissonant, unfamiliar chords
      • Beginning of Simpson’s theme song
    • Group 2: Listened to perfect fifth or consonant, familiar chord
      • Twinkle, twinkle little star
    • Are people in Group 1 or Group 2 more likely to be swayed by aggregate, as opposed to individualized, information?
      • Aggregate info: overall star rating on Amazon review
      • Individualized info: actual customer reviews that appear at the bottom of the page
        • Group 2

The Mozart Effect #

  • Initial research
    • Participants who spent 10 minutes listening to Mozart afterwards showed mean spatial IQ scores that were 8-9 points higher (significant, not giant) than that of controls in relaxation conditions
      • Effect did not extend beyond 10-15 minutes
      • Effect was specific to spatial temporal performance
  • Follow-up studies with rats suggest that effect cannot be explained merely by “enjoyment arousal”
    • Rats exposed to Mozart in utero and for 60-day postpartum period completed maze test significantly more quickly and with fewer errors than control rats exposed to minimalist music, white noise, or silence (Jenkins, J.S., 2001)
  • Longer-term effects
    • Children from low SES backgrounds who were given classical music in wind and string instruments for 18 months performed significantly better on IQ tests administered after program ended (Barbaroux, Dittinger & Besson, 2019)

Specificity of music #

  • No enhancement in performance on spatial temporal tests was shown after listening to minimalist or oldtime pop music
    • In fact, one experiment found that heavy metal increased amount of time it took for mice to run a maze by 20 minutes – and the mice also started killing each other!
  • Other types of music that resemble Mozart’s in high degree of long-term periodicity, especially within the 10-60s range (e.g., Bach), also found to be effective

The Mozart effect on epilepsy #

  • Listening to Mozart has been found to decrease abnormal brain wave activity and number of seizures in patients with epilepsy (Grylls, Kinsky, Baggott et al., 2018)
    • One study found that 23 of 29 patients showed decrease in seizure activity after listening to Mozart piano sonata
    • Abnormal spikes fell from 62% to 21% in one patient Beneficial effects of music on neonates (early-born babies)
  • Preterm babies who listened to music (not necessarily Mozart) in the neonatal intensive care unit had brain activity that more closely resembled that of full-term babies (Lordier, Meskaldji, Grouiller et al., 2019)

  • Match the following: (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003, 2006)
    1. classical, jazz, blues, and folk music lovers
    2. country, pop, and religious music lovers
    • cheerful
    • verbally intelligent
    • outgoing
    • conscientious
    • open to experience
    (2, 1, 2, 2, 1)
  • Music is the only sensory experience that can activate all areas of the brain simultaneously!
    • Meditation can do this too, but it’s not sensory

Music Therapy #

  • Typically used for people with Alzheimer’s, learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, intellectual disability, brain injuries, physical disabilities, chronic pain
    • Alzheimer’s patients have shown improvements in memory when listening to their favorite songs
    • In children, helps with emotional self expression, improves social and communication skills, as well as motor functioning
    • Various studies with cancer patients there have found significant reductions in anxiety, pain, and tiredness after music therapy was introduced
  • Music being played alone shows an improvement in mental and physical well being. However, it is more effective when paired with the playing of an instrument or singing along.

Individual Differences In Perception #

  • Introverts vs. Extroverts 🍋
    • Introverts salivate more to lemon juice – both by self-report and experimentally
    • Introverts tend to retain elevated heart rate for a longer time period after exposure to noxious odors
    • Introverts are more sensitive to pain – and are able to learn more quickly from punishment
  • At the same time, extroverts are more likely to drink/smoke to much and end up in jail

Synesthesia #

  • Synesthesia: stimulation of one modality leads to perceptual experience in another
    • Color grapheme (seeing specific letters or numbers in specific colors) synesthesia is most common type of synesthesia

  • We all have some sense of underlying synesthesia:
    • Which is a dog barking ‘woof woof’, doorbell ringing ‘ding ding’, and a furnace billowing ‘woosh wooosh’?
    • Which is booba and which is keekee?
    • Some people visualize months like this:
    • These examples were created by synesthetes, and most people agree on them
      • However, only synesthetes seem to be able to create these pieces
  • Study conducted at Science Museum in London
    • Visitors viewed two musical animations, one designed by synesthetes, the other by nonsynesthetes
    • Then asked which animation better matched the music
      • Participants overwhelmingly chose the synesthete-designed animation
    • Suggests that we all unconsciously link together music and vision but only synesthetes are consciously aware of these links
      • This sensory crossover probably occurs in the limbic system

Two theories of synesthesia #

  1. Brain architecture of synesthetes is equipped with more connections between neurons, causing the usual modularity to break down
    • Says the brain is made of many modules, and synesthetes have more connections between these modules
  1. “Feed-backward” connections that carry information from high-level multisensory areas of the brain back to single sense areas are not properly inhibited
    • Normally, information processed in such multisensory areas is allowed to return only to its appropriate singlesense area
    • In synesthetes’ brains, that inhibition is disrupted, allowing the different senses to become jumbled

Subliminal Perception And Priming #

  • Subliminal perception: Messages that are presented below one’s absolute threshold for conscious awareness may influence behavior
    • Experiment in which emotionally positive scenes (e.g., kittens) or negative scenes (e.g., werewolf) were subliminally flashed before participants viewed slides of faces
      • More positive ratings were given to faces that had been associated with positive scenes (Krosnizk, Betz, Jussim et al., 1992; Anderson, Siegel, White et al., 2012)
    • Graduate students evaluated their research ideas more negatively shortly after viewing the unperceived scowling face of their adviser
      • In the experimental group, students were more likely to be critical (less confident) in their ideas
  • Advertisers have made all sorts of exaggerated claims of being able to sell products when the product is flashed very briefly, along with an image of a very attractive person. In general, not well-supported by evidence.
    • The word ‘beef’ was flashed at below-threshold durations while participants watched a film. They were later more hungry, but did not specifically prefer beef to other foods.
      • Suggests that meaning not easily extracted from subliminal presentations; rather, stimuli act at an emotional level of priming task (Dijksterhuis, Aarts, & Smith, 2006)

  • No real evidence that listening to subliminal message tapes during sleep effective but some research suggests some types of sensory stimuli during sleep may affect learning and memory
    • “Cramming” during sleeping study (Antony, Gobel, O’Hare et al., 2012)
      • Participants learned to play 2 simple piano melodies, then took a 90-minute nap
      • While they slept, one of the melodies was quietly played on repeat
        • Able to play cued melody more accurately than other melody when they awoke
    • Smoking cessation study (Arzi, Holtzman, Samnon et al., 2014)
      • When asleep, study participants were exposed to two odors, cigarette smoke and rotten fish
      • During the following week, those who had smelled the mix of both odors lit up 30% less than those in control groups
        • Conditioning was more effective during Stage 2 than during REM sleep
        • Explicit olfactory aversive conditioning during wakefulness did not alter smoking behavior

  • Priming: unconscious activation of particular associations in memory

    People showed either of these images and instructed to draw a nature scene; those shown the left image tended to draw scenes with water (find the duck!)

  • Scrambled-sentence test: Make a grammatical four-word sentence as quickly as possible out of the following five-word sets:
    1. Him was worried she always
    2. From are Florida oranges temperature
    3. Ball the throw toss silently
    4. Shoes give replace old the
    5. He observes occasionally people watches
    6. Be will sweat lonely they
    7. Sky the seamless gray is
    8. Should now withdraw forgetful we
    9. Us bingo sing play let
    10. Sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins
    • After completing this test, participants walked significantly more slowly – almost as if they felt old – than control participants (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996)