Whatever our origin, music stimulates us physically

Whatever our origin, music stimulates us physically

If Zouk Machine is to be believed, we all have “music in our skin”. But we can wonder if the fourth art affects us in the same way whether we are French, Korean or Greek. A Chinese-Finnish research team looked into this question and found that the emotions that music gives us transcend geographical boundaries.

The researchers reached this conclusion after conducting two experiments with around 2,000 people from China, Europe and North America. In the first experiment, they had to classify 72 songs into six categories (happy, sad, scary, soft, aggressive and dancing melodies). Some volunteers were then asked to listen to these tracks and tell the scientists which regions of their body they thought would respond to the music they heard. So, they had to tell them if what was in their ears made them want to nod their head or tap their feet.

This experimental protocol allowed scientists to create a map of the regions of the body affected by different types of music. They thus observed that “tender and sad songs were felt mainly in the chest and head, while scary songs also caused sensations in the intestinal region, especially in Western participants“, as they write in their study, published in the journal PNAS.

“Joyful” and “danceable” melodies seem to mobilize the entire human body, just like so-called “aggressive” music, but the latter mainly provokes head movements.

Interestingly, study participants didn’t necessarily react the same way to the songs they listened to. Individuals from East Asia mainly moved their arms, legs and heads, while Europeans had more contrasting body reactions depending on the type of music. For example, “scary” melodies affected them mainly in the abdomen region, while “tender” and “sad” melodies appealed more to their chest.

Nevertheless, the research team states that “musical emotions are embodied in the same way in distant cultures”, which seems to indicate that the bodily sensations induced by music have “a biological component”.

Of course, these conclusions must be qualified given that the study only took place with Western and Asian participants. They are not enough to account for the diversity of all of humanity. But this study opens new perspectives regarding the transculturality of music.

The benefits of music on our brain

Slide: The benefits of music on our brain