Tag Archives: mood

Self Compassion, not Self-Esteem, Enhances Performance

Juliana Breines

Juliana Breines

Self-compassion is treating one’s own suffering with the same support and compassion offered to others.
It is even more important than self-esteem when developing skill and performance, found University of California, Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen.

Self-compassion enables people to accept their mistakes and shortcomings with kindness.
It also enables equanimity when people are aware of painful thoughts and feelings.
Self-compassion is optimized people accept responsibility for ineffective performance outcomes, and use this performance information to non-punitively improve.

Serena Chen

In Breines and Chen’s research, volunteers considered a personal setback with either a

  • self-compassion perspective or
  • self-esteem-enhancing perspective focusing on the person’s positive qualities and accomplishments.

People who practiced a self-compassionate perspective tended to view personal shortcomings as changeable, and felt more motivated to improve performance by avoiding the same mistake in the future.

Another task induced failure, then provided an opportunity to improve performance in a later challenge.
Participants who viewed their initial test failure with self-compassion devoted 25 per cent more time to preparing for future trials, and scored higher on the second test than those who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.

Self-compassion can enhance performance, suggested Breines and Chen, because it enables more dispassionate assessment of actions, abilities, and opportunities for future improvement.
In contrast, self-esteem-bolstering thoughts may narrow focus to consider only positive characteristics while overlooking opportunities for improvement.

Robert McCrae

Self-compassion measures were related to positive personality characteristics outlined in Robert McCrae and Paul Costa’s five factor model of personality known by the acronym OCEAN:

Paul Costa

  • Openness (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless)
  • Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident)
    in a study by Kristin Neff and Stephanie Rude of University of Texas, and Kristin Kirkpatrick of Eastern Kentucky University.

Kristin Neff

Neff’s team found that higher levels of personal well-being, optimism, initiative, conscientiousness, curiosity, happiness associated were associated with self-compassion.
Higher self-compassion was also related to lower anxiety and depression.

Self-compassion’s less effective reciprocal, self-criticism, seems associated with imagined assessments by others and comparisons with other people.

Mark Baldwin

McGill University’s Mark Baldwin found that participants who thought of an important person in their lives experienced more negative self-evaluations, self-criticism, and negative moods.

Compassionate self-appraisals enable people to perform better and experience more positive moods than self-critical evaluations.

-*How have you applied self-compassion to improve performance?

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Transference in Everyday Life Biases Memory, Emotions

-*Ever catch yourself re-enacting scenarios from your past, but with different people?

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

 Sigmund Freud described this experience as “transference,” redirecting feelings toward one person onto a different individual in the present.

The current recipient of feelings may have different characteristics, motivations, and behaviors than the original person, but something about the present individual triggers a repeat of earlier feelings and actions.

Susan Andersen

Susan Andersen

NYU’s Susan Andersen and Alana Baum demonstrated transference in lab studies when they asked volunteers for descriptions of important people in their lives for whom they had positive feelings or negative feelings.
To contrast the results, Andersen and Baum also presented descriptions of other people’s significant others.

Later, Anderson and Baum described a person seated next door, using either the emotionally-positive or emotionally-negative descriptions of someone from the volunteer’s life or someone else’s life.

Participants more accurately recalled the stranger’s description when it resembled their own significant other.
Recall was enhanced because the salient features of the significant other’s description were memorable when assigned to a new person, suggesting transference.

In addition, biased inference and memory are based on “accessibility” and distinctiveness of the earlier triggering memory, according to Anderson’s collaborators Steve W. Cole and Noah Glassman.

Transference is an outgrowth of attachment to others in the past, according to Queens College’s Claudia Chloe Brumbaugh and R. Chris Fraley University of Illinois.

R. Chris Fraley

R. Chris Fraley

In their research, participants learned about two potential dating partners:  One description resembled a romantic partner from the person’s past, whereas another description matched another participant’s former partner.

These volunteers reported feeling both less avoidant and more anxious toward potential dating partners described as similar to previous significant others.
Brumbaugh and Fraley noted that participants “applied attachment representations of past partners” to any potential future partner, but to a greater extent when the new partner was described as resembling an important past partner.

Susan Fiske

Earlier, Princeton’s Susan Fiske described this transfer of affective responses to a new individual as schema-triggered affect.
Andersen used this framework and a socio-cognitive explanation in a paper with Berkeley’s Serena Chen.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

People modify views of themselves and others in transference situations, found Katrina Hinkley and Andersen.
Volunteers also demonstrated biased recall of details about a new person when a representation of an earlier significant other was activated.
Participants’ list of the new person’s attributes changed on re-test to include elements of the self when the participant had been with the former significant person.

Michael Kraus

Michael Kraus

Transference occurs even when a target person possesses an attribute incompatible with the significant other’s characteristics, found University of Illinois’s Michael W. Kraus with Berkeley’s Chen, Victoria A. Lee, and Laura D. Straus.

Participants demonstrated transference in biased memories and judgments about a person they perceived as similar to a former significant other.

This effect was manipulated to elicit positive impressions even when the target was from an ethnic out-group, suggesting ways to reduce stigma and discrimination by evoking positive transference from past experiences to present actors.

Baum and Anderson observed that participants’ transient mood was more positive when the target of their transference resembled their own significant other and occupied a similar role to the original person.

These findings suggest that transference in the workplace can be problematic when employees react to one another as they responded to others from the past, introducing unconscious emotional elements to work situations.

-*How do you manage transference reactions in work and social situations?

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Does Music Increase Risk-Taking, Ethical Lapses?

John DrydenJohn Dryden

John Dryden

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?” asked English poet, playwright, and critic John Dryden in A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1687.

More recently, researchers have identified that music can increase risk-taking and ethically questionable behaviors in experimental settings.

Marja-Liisa Halko

Marja-Liisa Halko

Listening to preferred music was associated with increased risk-taking in a study of 23 adolescents ages 12 to 17 conducted by University of Helsinki’s Marja-Liisa Halko and Markku Kaustia of Aalto University.
Participants identified favorite and most disliked songs, and these tracks provided alternating background music during 16 opportunities to gamble for real money in trials with varying risk.

Volunteers could choose whether to participate or pass on gambles that offered a 50-50 chance to win or lose money.
If they accepted a gamble marked “plus 1.50, minus 1.20,” they had a 50 percent chance of winning 1.5 Euros, and a 50 percent chance of losing 1.2 Euros.
Preferred music was played during 64 gambles, whereas disliked music provided the auditory background during 64 other trials, and another 128 gambles were conducted in silence.

Markku Kaustia

Markku Kaustia

Participants accepted more risky gambles when their favorite music played, and they accepted fewest high risk gambles when accompanied by disliked tunes. These findings suggest that preferred music increases money’s “marginal utility” or additional satisfaction a consumer gains from “consuming one more unit of a good or service.”

Favorite music seemed to encourage people to “do what it takes” to earn more money, even if it involves greater risk and potential loss.

Naomi Ziv

Naomi Ziv

Many people prefer up-tempo music due to its mood-enhancing effects, yet upbeat music may have a darker side:  It can move people to harm others, found NYU’s Naomi Ziv.

More than 100 volunteers spent 90 seconds trying to underline all vowels in an unclear photocopied page of text.
One-quarter of the participants completed the task in silence, while the others heard one of four upbeat musical numbers, including James Brown’s I Feel Good while they finished the job.

Erica Nadera

Erica Nadera

Ziv’s team asked volunteers to inconvenience and disappoint their peers by telling saying that other volunteers couldn’t participate in a study required for academic credit because the researcher didn’t feel like staying during the experiment.

In another study, Ziv’s team asked voluntary participants to tell another volunteer who had been seriously ill that the researcher would not provide previously-promised course material, again because the researcher didn’t feel like doing so.

Steven Brown

Steven Brown

People who heard upbeat music played in the background were significantly more willing to provide the ethically dubious excuse to another volunteer compared with people who completed the task in silence.

Ulrik Volgsten

Ulrik Volgsten

Effective manipulation through music, including its use in advertising and in torture were summarized by Erica Nadera of Rutgers, while MacMaster University’s Steven Brown and Ulrik Volgsten of Örebro University assembled academic articles on music’s social uses and social control processes.

Daniel Västfjäll

Daniel Västfjäll

The specific mechanism to trigger changes in individuals’ experienced affective processes has been called including “musical mood induction procedure” (MMIP) by Linköping University’s Daniel Västfjäll in his review of research demonstrating music’ effect on peoples’ moods and emotions.

Emmett Velten

Emmett Velten

The most frequently-used mood induction procedure was developed by University of Southern California’s Emmett Velten and typically asks participants to read 60 self-referent statements including “This is great, I really do feel good” (elated condition), “I have too many bad things in my life” (depressed condition), and  “This book or any part thereof must not be reproduced in any form” (neutral condition).

However, this approach’s validity and reliability are limited by demand characteristics biasing results because the experimenters’ expectations suggest an implicit demand for specific performance requirements.

David M Clark

David M Clark

As a result, University of Oxford’s David M. Clark developed the Musical MIP eliciting depressed, neutral, and elated mood conditions based on music, and University of Oxford colleague Maryanne Martin noted that the MMIP induced the desired mood more than 75% of experimental trials.

She also concluded that the MMIP was especially efficient in inducing depressed and anxious moods, but inferior to other MIPs (such as Welten’s mood-induction procedure, social feedback, and social recollection) in inducing elated moods

Music’s varied impact on mood, performance, decision-making, pain perception, endurance and other dimensions is discussed in related blog posts, as is its use for beneficial and these less altruistic ends.

-*How do you use music to manage your own and others’ mood and productivity?

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Low Field Magnetic Stimulation To Improve Mood, Learning, Performance?

Michael L. Rohan

Michael L. Rohan

An unexpected observation during a diagnostic MRI brain scan may provide relief for people with medication-resistant, life-threatening depressive disorders.
People diagnosed bipolar disorder (BPD) who had diagnostic MRI brain scans, reported rapid mood elevation after the procedure.

Rinah Yamamoto

Rinah Yamamoto

The magnetic resonance imaging procedure was not intended to be therapeutic, but this unexpected finding led a team from Harvard directed by Michael L. Rohan, and including Rinah T. Yamamoto, Kenroy R. Cayetano, David P. Olson, Caitlin T. Ravichandran, Oscar G. Morales, Gordana Vitaliano, with Cornell colleagues  Steven M. Paul and Bruce M. Cohen in developing Low Field Magnetic Stimulation (LFMS) that reproduces the rapidly oscillating (1 kHz, <1 V/m) electromagnetic field.

They evaluated this device’s potential to provide mood elevation to more than 40 people diagnosed with depression associated with bipolar disorder (BPD) and more than 20 people diagnosed with major depressive disorder in a randomized, double blind, controlled study.

Steven M. Paul

Steven M. Paul

Participants received a single, 20-minute treatment of 256 microsecond pulses separated by 1 millisecond, then Rohan’s team immediately evaluated mood using the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17), and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) scales.

They found substantial mood improvement following LFMS electric stimulation throughout the cerebral cortex, compared with a sham “treatment” for both volunteer groups.

Andre R. Brunoni

Andre R. Brunoni

In fact, six weeks of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) was equally effective as antidepressant Sertraline (Zoloft) for 120 participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder, reported University of São Paulo’s Andre R. Brunoni, Leandro Valiengo, Alessandra Baccaro, Tamires A. Zanão, Janaina F. de Oliveira, Alessandra Goulart, Paulo A. Lotufo, and Isabela M. Benseñor, with Paulo S. Boggio of Mackenzie Presbyterian University and Harvard’s Felipe Fregni.
Both treatments were more effective than either alone when Brunoni’s team combined Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) with Sertraline (Zoloft).

Marom Bikson

Marom Bikson

The typical current dose used in tDCS is a thousand times lower than the dose used in Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), and may enable neural connections to rewire, depending on the position of current flows, found City College of New York’s Marom Bikson and Abhishek Datta, with Peter Bulow of Columbia University, Seton Hall University’s Fortunato Battaglia, John W. Stiller of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Princeton’s Sergei V. Karnup, and Teodor T. Postolache of University of Maryland.

tDCS has also shown potential to improve learning and motor skill performance – with caveats.

Peter E. Turkeltaub

Peter E. Turkeltaub

One study demonstrated tDCS’s impact on improved word reading efficiency among 25 right-handed volunteers, due to increased left lateralization of the brain’s posterior temporal cortex (pTC), reported Georgetown’s Peter E. Turkeltaub with Jennifer Benson of University of Michigan, collaborating with Roy H. Hamilton and H. Branch Coslett of University of Pennsylvania and City College of New York’s Abhishek Datta and Marom Bikson.

The team asserted that these findings offer a low-cost, accessible treatment option for people with below-average reading skills and developmental dyslexia.

Roi Cohen Kadosh

Roi Cohen Kadosh

Likewise, tDCS brain stimulation during numerical learning over five days enhanced people’s ability to learn a new number system based on arbitrary symbols – with significant improvement enduring up to 6 months in a study by University of Oxford Roi Cohen Kadosh, with Sonja Soskic, Teresa Iuculano, Ryota Kanai, and Vincent Walsh of University College London.

However, these benefits came with costs when the team compared volunteers who received electrical stimulation to:

  • Posterior parietal cortex, implicated in numerical cognition,
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, involved in learning and memory.
Sonja Soskic

Sonja Soskic

The team also provided a “sham” treatment that caused no change in brain activity to another.
Volunteers who had the parietal area electrical stimulation learned the new number system more quickly than those who got sham stimulation.

Teresa Iuculano

Teresa Iuculano

However, the cost was slower reaction times when they applied the learned skill to novel tasks.
Those who received prefrontal stimulation were slower than the control group to learn the new numerical system, but they performed faster on the new test at the end of the experiment.

Shinichi Furuya

Shinichi Furuya

Skilled physical performance selectively improved with noninvasive Transcranial Stimulation (tDCS) among musically-untrained volunteers, but not for highly-trained musicians, found Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media’s Shinichi Furuya, Matthias Klaus and Eckart Altenmüller, with Michael A. Nitsche and Walter Paulus of Georg-August-University. 

Vincent Walsh

Vincent Walsh

Further caveats come from University College London’s Vincent Walsh, who critiqued this and other studies, for potential shortcomings, including:

  • Inadequate control experiments,
  • Speculation about brain areas excited and inhibited by tDCS,
  • Real-world relevance of small effects noted in lab experiments.

-*To what extent does electrical brain stimulation offer appealing therapeutic and performance benefits?

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“Default Mode Network”, Positive Mood Increase Creative Problem Solving

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

“Aimless engagement” in an activity can enable a non-linear, integrative “free association” of ideas leading to creative breakthroughs, confirmed Drexel University’s John Kounios.

Graham Wallas

Graham Wallas

Many people recognize this experience of creative “incubation” while performing routine, well-rehearsed tasks, though they may not be aware that nearly 90 years ago, Graham Wallas of London School of Economics proposed this phenomenon one of four stages in the creativity process.

Michael D Greicius

Michael D Greicius

The brain’s posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) operate as a “default mode network” during this type of relaxed engagement, found Stanford’s Michael D. Greicius, Ben Krasnow, Allan L. Reiss, and Vinod Menon.

Rebecca Koppel

Rebecca Koppel

During free-flowing ideation, these brain regions “untether” thoughts from usual associational “mental ruts” to commingle in original ways.
Fixation forgetting” enables this innovative recombination of thoughts to develop innovative solutions, according to University of Illinois’s Rebecca Koppel and Benjamin C. Storm of University of California Santa Cruz.

Mark Beeman

Mark Beeman

Creative problem solving through insight also involves the right hemisphere’s anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG), an area associated with recognizing broad associative semantic relationships, reported Kounios and colleagues at Northwestern, Mark Beeman, Edward M Bowden, Jason Haberman, Stella Arambel-Liu, and Paul J Reber, collaborating with Kounios and Jennifer L Frymiare, also of Drexel, and Source Signal Imaging’s Richard Greenblatt.

John Kounios

John Kounios

They concluded that creative problem solving requires the ability to encode, retrieve, and evaluate information.
When insight is involved, integration of distantly related information is also needed.

Ruby Nadler

Ruby Nadler

In addition to these skills, University of Western Ontario’s Ruby T. Nadler, Rahel Rabi and John Paul Minda found that cognitive flexibility for problem-solving activates the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, areas important in creative hypothesis-testing and rule-selection.
Additionally, they confirmed that creative solutions can be enabled by eliciting a positive mood.

Rahel Rabi

Rahel Rabi

The team induced positive, neutral, and negative moods using music clips and video clips, and asked volunteers to classify pictures with visually complex patterns.
People in the positive-mood condition showed better classification learning than those with induced neutral or negative moods, suggesting that upbeat music effectively enhanced creative thinking while boosting innovators’ mood.

John Paul Minda

John Paul Minda

Somewhat surprisingly, capturing ideas through handwriting or typing can attenuate innovation because recording requires a shift to a more linear organization of thoughts, posited Kounios.

-*How can you capture creative solutions while maintaining innovative momentum?

-*How can you prevent “fixation forgetting” from interfering with accessing information required for creative work?

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Gratitude Increases Financial Patience, Investment Earnings

Jennifer Lerner

Jennifer Lerner

Emotions affect personal financial decision-making, and negative emotions like anger and fear can lead people to make either risky or conservative financial choices, according to Harvard’s Jennifer Lerner.

David DeSteno

David DeSteno

With Northeastern University’s David DeSteno, Leah Dickens, University of California Riverside’s Ye Li, Lerner and Columbia University colleague Elke Weber noted that sadness increases impatience and leads to “myopic misery” – focus on immediate gain instead of more profitable longer-term options.

Leah Dickens

Leah Dickens

Lerner and team analyzed participants’ payoff choices when they were in an induced sad state or a neutral emotional condition compared with disgust as a control state.

Ye Li

Ye Li

On average, sad-state participants accepted between 13% and 34% less money to receive a payoff immediately (“present bias”) instead of waiting 90 days for a larger payment, confirming that induced sad feeling led to preference for immediate reward and less patience for a better but more distant payoff.

Elke Weber

Elke Weber

However, these sad volunteers were not more impatient in other generalized areas, suggesting that this effect focuses on impatience for rewards.
In contrast, the negative emotion of disgust did not result in greater impatience, pointing to the specific impact of sad feelings on payoff choices.

Cynthia Cryder

Cynthia Cryder

In a related study, Lerner and team evaluated the impact of induced positive emotions: Happiness and gratitude.
Again, participants could select a smaller, immediate payoff or larger payout later.

Induced gratitude enabled most volunteers to negotiate larger immediate rewards in exchange for giving up a larger, but more distant payment: “…the mean grateful participant required $63 immediately to forgo receiving $85 in three months, whereas the mean neutral or happy participant required only $55 immediately.

James Gross

James Gross

This trend was replicated in other studies by Lerner, Li, and Weber, who reported that average sad-mood participant was willing to accept $4 today instead of $100 in a year, whereas the average neutral-mood volunteer required more than four times as much$19 today to forego $100 in a year.
Another study estimated that sad volunteers accepted between 35% and 79% less money immediately instead of waiting for a future payoff.

Ronald Dahl

Ronald Dahl

This ”misery is not miserly” effect is influenced by the degree of “self-focus” or attention to personal impact in  an observed situation.
When volunteers were primed to focus on their personal reactions while experiencing induced sadness, they gave up more money to acquire a commodity compared with people who had neutral emotions or neutral self-focus, according to Lerner with Washington University’s Cynthia E. Cryder, James J. Gross of Stanford, and University of Pittsburgh’s Ronald E. Dahl.

Gratitude moderates “economic impatience” and suggests that affect-based interventions can help investors enhance financial decision making.

-*How do you manager the impact of transient emotional states on financial decision-making and risk-taking?

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Music Preferences Indicate Personality Traits

Besides individual aesthetic preferences, people may prefer musical genres to “regulate” mood or express self-image.

-*Does personality style shape musical preferences?
-*Does preferred music affect personality?

Peter Jason Rentfrow

Peter Jason Rentfrow

University of Cambridge’s Peter Jason Rentfrow and Samuel Gosling uncovered four music-preference dimensions when they analyzed music preferences of more than 3,500 individuals in six studies:

  • Reflective and Complex
  • Intense and Rebellious
  • Upbeat and Conventional
  • Energetic and Rhythmic

These music-preference categories were related to cognitive abilities like verbal IQ and attitudes like political orientation in addition to Big Five personality dimensions.

In other studies, Rentfrow and Gosling found that musical preference accurately predicted Big Five personality traits including “Openness to Experience”, Extraversion, and Emotional Stability among strangers when they asked same-sex and opposite-sex volunteers with an average age of 18  to “get to know each other” over 6 weeks.

Rentfrow and Gosling found significant correlations between musical genre preferences and Big Five personality characteristics:

  • Blues: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease
  • Jazz: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, at ease, intellectual
  • Classical: High self-esteem, creative, introvert, at ease
  • Rap: High self-esteem, outgoing
  • Opera: High, gentle self-esteem, creative
  • Country and Western: Hardworking, outgoing, emotionally stable
  • Reggae: High self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle, at ease
  • Dance: Creative, outgoing, not gentle
  • Indie: Low self-esteem, creative, not hard working, not gentle
  • Bollywood: Creative, outgoing
  • Rock/heavy metal: Low self-esteem, creative, not hard-working, gentle, at ease, not outgoing,
  • Chart Pop: High self-esteem, hardworking, outgoing, gentle, not creative, not at ease
  • Soul: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease
  • Vocals: Extraverted
Marvin Zuckerman

Marvin Zuckerman

Additional support for the relationship between music preference and personality characteristics came from University of Melbourne’s David Rawlings and Vera Ciancarelli in their study correlating responses on University of Delaware’s Patrick Little and Marvin Zuckerman‘s Music Preference Scale and the NEO Personality Inventory (Revised).

Individuals who scored high on extraversion and women tended to prefer
“Popular Music
” and those who scored high on “Openness to Experience” showed strong “Breadth of Musical Preference.”

This study related “sensation seeking” to musical preferences and confirmed speculation that people who seek greater levels of environmental stimulation through auditory, visual, gustatory, and other experiences tend to like complex, intense music.

High scorers on Sensation Seeking Scale form V preferred Rock music and but not Soundtrack music and those who scored high on Thrill and Adventure Seeking subscale and Experience Seeking subscale liked Folk and Classical music in addition to Rock music.
As might be expected, participants who scored high on the Disinhibition subscale liked Rock but not Religious or Soundtrack music.

Hans Eysenck

Hans Eysenck

“Extraversion” has been related to “sensation seeking” in Hans Eysenck’s seminal research.
Southern Illinois University’s Stephen J. Dollinger demonstrated that people who report behaviors and traits associated with extraversion tend to prefer Jazz, which has “high arousal properties” and those who endorse “excitement seeking” behaviors said they prefer Hard Rock music.

Stephen Dollinger

Stephen Dollinger

These generalizations may change as people age, so Nazarene University College’s Kelley Schwartz and Gregory Fouts of University of Calgary examined 164 adolescents’ music preferences in relation to personality dimensions and developmental issues.

Gregory Fouts

Gregory Fouts

Those who preferred music with “heavy” or “light” qualities reported personality and developmental difficulties, but those who preferred “eclectic” music reported no personality or developmental concerns.

Schwartz and Fouts concluded that adolescents prefer music that reflects personality characteristics and developmental challenges, supporting Renfrow and Gosling’s caveat that results for adult musical preferences may not reflect the same personality characteristics among people in other age groups.

Taken together, these findings on personality trends related to musical preferences among adolescents and adults suggest that when people master specific developmental issues, music relevant to those challenges may no longer be appealing, and preferences may change.

-*To what extent do you prefer music that “regulates” your mood and productivity?

-*How accurately can you infer people’s personality traits from their musical preferences?

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Emotional Music Can Lead to Biased Judgments

Joydeep Bhattacharya

Joydeep Bhattacharya

Emotions elicited by music influence can influence and even bias visual judgments, according to University of London’s Nidhya Logeswaran and Joydeep Bhattacharya.

They presented volunteers with short excerpts of “happy” music or “sad” music, then showed neutral, “happy,” and “sad” faces.
When people listened to a “happy” music, they were more likely to perceive faces as “happy” even when the face was neutral.
Similarly, the “priming” with “sad” music was associated with more ratings of faces as “sad,” even if they were neutral.

The team also observed the effects of musical “priming” in electrophysiological measures of brain potential components within 100 milliseconds after the faces were presented, suggesting rapid neuronal information processing.

Even if listeners’ perceptions and judgments can be biased by emotional music, listeners do not experience the precise emotions they hear in music.

Kiyoshi Furukawa

Kiyoshi Furukawa

Listeners can identify strong emotions conveyed by music, but do not experience the same degree or type of emotion, according to Tokyo University of the Arts’s Ai Kawakami and Kiyoshi Furukawa, who collaborated with University of Tokyo’s Kentaro Katahira and Kazuo Okanoya.

Kazuo Okanoya

Kazuo Okanoya

Kawakami and team distinguished “perceived emotion” from “felt emotion” in response to music, and presented two pieces of “sad” music (Mikhail Glinka’s “La Séparation” in F minor) and one piece of “happy” music to 44 volunteers, both musicians and non-musicians.

Mikhail Glinka

Mikhail Glinka

Participants rated their perceived emotions and felt emotions in response to each musical selection using 62 descriptions on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much).
Although participants recognized the “sad” music’s negative emotions, most reported feeling “romantic,” and “blithe,” rather than negative or unpleasant.

Muzak

Muzak

“Muzak” (now Mood Media) audio in workplaces can evoke emotional responses that may lead to biased business decisions.

As long ago as the 1950s, concerned American citizens claimed that Muzak practiced “brainwashing” with its planned musical sequences in quarter-hour segments.

Muzak Stimulus ProgressionMuzak’s playlist is synchronized to time of day to “increase energy” at predicted low-energy times based on its patented “Stimulus Progression.
These 15-minute sequences feature about six songs with varying “stimuli values,” based on tempo, rhythm, instrumentation and orchestra size.
The next 15-minute period features silence.
Mood Media
Over a 24-hour period, tunes with higher “stimulus value” are played when people are typically “lethargic” – 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and slower songs are played “after lunch” and at the end of the work day.
Muzak claimed that this programming “increases morale and productivity at workplaces, increase sales at supermarkets, and even dissuade potential shoplifting at department stores.”

The emotional tone of music may bias other cross-sensory judgments.
Adrian C. North, working at University of Leicester and Herriott Watt University, tested the effect of music in a supermarket on wine selections and olfactory/gustatory judgments wine’s properties.

North ensured that French accordian music or German Bierkeller brass band music were played on alternating days for two weeks at the supermarket.
French wines and German wines had similar prices and their order on the shelf was changed each day.

After 82 shoppers selected wines, an interviewer asked customers to complete a questionnaire about the purchase, including:

  • Preference for French or German wines
  • Extent to which the music brought to mind France or Germany
  • Degree to which the music influenced specific wine selection.

The results from 44 shoppers suggest that music influenced shoppers’ wine selections:  More French wine was sold when French music played (40 bottles of French wine vs 8 bottles of German wine), and more German wine was sold when German music played (22 bottles of German wine vs 12 bottles of French wine).

North concluded that barely audible music can implicitly, unconsciously affect thoughts, perceptions, decisions, and even buying action.

Charles Areni

Charles Areni

Music can trigger thoughts similar to the music’s mood, context, or speed, according to the Preference-for-prototypes model proposed by Macquarie University’s Charles Areni and David Kim of Texas Tech.

-*When have your judgments and performance been altered by ambient music?

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Music – Part 4 of 5

Many people intuitively turn to music when they want to regulate energy and mood.

Valorie Salimpoor

Valorie Salimpoor

Listening to music evokes sympathetic nervous system activity, a sign of emotional arousal measured by changes in heart rate, respiration, electrodermal activity, body temperature, and blood volume pulse, according to Rotman Research Institute’s Valorie Salimpoor, McGill’s Mitchel Benovoy, Gregory Longo, Jeremy Cooperstock, and Robert Zatorre.

Mitchel Benovoy

Mitchel Benovoy

The researchers asked twenty-six participants to select and listen to “pleasurable” music and researchers selected “neutral” music for participants based.
Pleasure ratings and emotional arousal measures were strongly related, and those who did not experience pleasure also showed no significant increases in emotional arousal.

Gregory Longo

Gregory Longo

This finding suggests that listening to preferred music can be used as a mood-enhancement and stress management approach.

Lori Gooding

Lori Gooding

Kentucky University’s Lori Gooding and Olivia Yinger validated music’s stress management benefits for surgical patients.
They found that listening to music can reduce anxiety, subjective pain, and requests sedative medication following surgery.

Olivia Yinger

Olivia Yinger

Slow music expedited relaxation and reduced pain, suggesting that music tempo, rhythm and volume can contribute to reduced anxiety, improved treatment experiences, with lower medical costs in medical intensive care units.

Nick Perham

Nick Perham

Besides managing stress, listening to background music before task performance can increase attention and memory by evoking arousal and positive mood, according to Nick Perham and Joanne Vizard, then of University of Wales Institute Cardiff.

Joann Vizard

Joann Vizard

However, listening to music during a task decreased serial recall among adult volunteers, again pointing to the value of listening to music before but not during tasks that require acute concentration.

Kristie Young

Kristie Young

Beyond passively listening to music, performing music by singing during a complex task can decrease performance.
Monash University’s Genevieve Hughes and Kristie Young with Christina Rudin-Brown of Transport Canada found that singing while performing complex, attention-requiring task increases mental workload and distraction.

Christina Rudin-Brown

Christina Rudin-Brown

They asked participants to learn the lyrics two popular songs, then sing them while operating a simulated car during a 6.6 km urban trip with four speed zones and encountering expected and unexpected traffic events.

Volunteers who sang while “driving” scanned their visual field less often, focused on the area directly ahead (“cognitive tunnelling”), and were less aware of potential hazards during a peripheral detection task (PDT).
However, singing reduced “driving” speed and enabled volunteers to maintain position in their “lanes.”

Efforts to compensate for the increased mental workload associated with singing and listening to music appeared ineffective, suggesting that listening to music during complex tasks impairs performance.

Jim Blascovich

Jim Blascovich

In contrast to performance-disrupting impact  of listening to music while performing complex tasks, SUNY Buffalo’s Karen Allen with Jim Blascovich of University of California, Santa Barbara reported that surgeons worked more quickly and accurately when they listened to preferred music, and physical stress was reduced, indicated by cardiac and electrodermal autonomic responses, hemodynamic measures.
Those who listened to no music did not perform as quickly and accurately as those who listened to their preferred music.

Stress-reducing and performance impacts of music appear related to both personal musical preferences, and musical temp and genre.

Leigh Riby

Leigh Riby

Northumbria University’s Leigh Riby found that “uplifting” music can boost mental alertness, attention and memory.

Volunteers pressed a keyboard space bar when a green square appeared on screen but not when they saw different-colored circles and squares under two conditions: in silence and while listening “uplifting” concertos (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons).

Riby measured brain activity with an EEG and found that participants responded accurately more quickly when listening to the ”uplifting” Spring concerto in contrast to performing with no music or the slower, more somber Autumn concerto.
The Spring concert “seemed to give rise to particular imagery in the brain and evoke positive, contented feelings which translated into higher levels of cognitive functioning,” according to Riby.

The underlying mechanism of music’s effects on attention, concentration, and performance is dopamine release in response to music that elicited “chills” or ‘‘musical frisson” — changes in skin conductance, heart rate, breathing, and temperature that were correlated with pleasurability ratings of the music.

Alain Dagher

Alain Dagher

Salimpoor and her McGill team, including Kevin Larcher and Alain Dagher, used PET and fMRI brain imaging techniques to measure anticipation and consumption of music as a reward, and demonstrated that volunteers who listen to preferred, “pleasurable” music experience greater release of dopamine, which is associated with emotional arousal and pleasurability ratings.

This is one of the first demonstrations that an abstract, cognitive, non-tangible reward can lead to dopamine release, and that different brain circuits are involved in anticipating (caudate) and experiencing (nucleus accumbens) musical tension and resolution.

Teresa Lesiuk

Teresa Lesiuk

University of Miami’s Teresa Lesiuk reported improved task speed, performance, and new ideas with information technology specialists who listened to preferred music.

She attributed these positive effects to reduced stress and improved mood, and found that people who were moderately skilled at their jobs benefited most, but experts experience no benefit.
Consistent with findings that music can be a distraction in cognitively-demanding tasks, novices found that music undermined performance.

Amit Sood

Amit Sood

When people’s minds wander, music can help focus on the present moment, according to Amit Sood of Mayo Clinic, who advocates music’s value in developing and reinforcing Mindful Attention – another approach to managing stress.

 -*When does music in the workplace reduce stress? Increase performance?

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Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

Nature

Sleep

Organizational Roles, Practices

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  • Vitamins and Probiotcs (Part 1)
  • Mindful Attention (Part 2)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

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Spreading Good News Feels Good, Especially When It’s About You

Christian Science Monitor has long provided a counterpoint to mainstream media’s “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to providing shocking, scandalous, depressing, or scary news.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Wharton’s Jonah Berger and Katharine Milkman found that the Christian Science Monitor might have a savvy business model:  they found that good news spreads more widely than bad.

Word of Mouth Marketing AssociationMembers of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Take note…

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

Berger and Milkman evaluated a random sample of 3,000 of more than 7,500 articles published in the New York Times online from August 2008 to February 2009.

They judged each article’s “popularity” based on number of times it was forwarded to others, after controlling for online publication time, section, and degree of promotion on the home page.
Independent readers rated each article for practical value or surprise, and ratio of positive vs negative emotion words in each news item.

Most-forwarded posts were positive, funny, exciting and featuring intellectually challenging topics, like science, that “inspire awe” (“admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self”).

Readers shared articles that typically provoke negative emotions like anger and anxiety, but not sadness.
-*Why this bias against sending “downer” messages?

Emily Falk

Emily Falk

Michigan’s Emily Falk, with UCLA colleagues Sylvia Morelli, B. Locke Welborn, Karl Dambacher,and Matthew Lieberman found that people consider what appeals to others, possibly as a means of building relationships, indicated by increased activation in brain regions (temporoparietal junction, or TPJ and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) associated with “social cognition,” or thoughts about other people, measured by fMRI.

When those regions were activated, people were more likely to talk about the idea with enthusiasm, and the idea would spread by word-of-mouth.

Falk noted that the team mapped  brain regions “associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good ‘idea salesperson.'”
She plans to use these brain maps “to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.”

Diana Tamir

Diana Tamir

People also like to spread good news about themselves.
Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, then of Harvard, illustrated that brain regions associated with reward (mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area) are activated when people share information about themselves.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that people will sacrifice monetary rewards for this opportunity.

Mor Naaman

Mor Naaman

In fact, Rutgers’ Mor Naaman with Jeffrey Boase, now at Ryerson University and Chih-Hui Lai, now of University of Akron found that 80 percent of Twitter users tweet primarily about themselves.
One reason may be that people say more positive things when they’re talking to a bigger audience, like Twitter followers, according to Berger’s research suggests. As a result, social media users are likely to convey positive information about themselves.

Jeffrey Boase

Jeffrey Boase

However, this positive self-presentation may not result in a positive mood if communicators spend longer on social media platforms like Facebook.
Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge of Utah Valley University found that those with longer visits to Facebook say they are less happy than their Facebook Friends.

They found that Facebook users tend to form biased judgment based on easily-recalled examples (availability heuristic) and erroneously attribute positive Facebook content to others’ personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.

Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova

Corroborated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Hanna Krasnova and her team from Technische Universität Darmstadt, these researchers observed “invidious emotions” and “envy” among people who spend longer time on Facebook.

These findings have relevance to members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Spread the good word – or at least the emotional word – and spend less time on Facebook and other social media that might invite social comparison and the potential for envious dissatisfaction.

-*How you build “buzz” via “Word of Mouth”?

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