Hearing Emotions

New research suggests that emotions such as anger, sadness, and happiness are expressed in the same way in music and movement across cultures.

 Live Science reports on this interesting discovery.  In the past, scientists have found that animals like different music than humans and that music stimulates the same part of our brain as food, sex, and love.  The study is outlined in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers asked  Dartmouth undergraduates and members of a remote Cambodian hill tribe to use sliding bars to adjust traits such as the speed, pitch, or regularity of music.  Interestingly, both groups used the same types of characteristics to express primal emotions.  The study also found that the same types of patterns were used to express the same emotions in animations of movement in both cultures.

Outside observer Jonathan Schooler, a professor of brain and psychological Sciences at the University of California at Santa Barbara,  said,The study suggests why music is so fundamental and engaging for us.  It takes advantage of some very, very basic and , in some sense, primitive systems that understand how motion relates to emotion.

Thalia Wheatley, a neuroscientist at Dartmouth University, says that the team traveled to the remote highlands of Cambodia to verify if this trend held across cultures. They asked 85 members of the Kreung tribe to perform the same task as the Dartmouth students.

Interestingly, the Kreung tended to put the slider bars in roughly the same positions as Americans did to capture different emotions, and the position of the sliders was very similar for both music and emotions.  Wheatley pointed out that none of the tribes’ people had any exposure to Western music or media,

Emotion is the same thing no matter whether it’s coming in through our eyes or ears.

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