Individual Project, Version 2

Individual Project Proposal

Primary Question: Are (non-explicitly musically trained) shoppers more likely to feel confident in their purchasing choices if they have been previously been entrained to music that expresses confidence?

Realizing that it would be implausible to complete this experiment in the next two months, I instead propose a project that will take the next semester to complete. This experiment will be in two parts:

Part 1) Gabrielsson (2001, 2010) provided compelling evidence that listeners do, in fact, experience real emotions based on music that they hear. The scale of these emotions, obviously, are vastly different based on personal factors, situational factors, etc, but very few people are constantly unmoved by all types of music. Even in the case of Gerling and dos Santos (2007), listeners perceived emotions expressed in the music, although they did not always match the intended ones.

However, Juslin, Liljestrom, Vastfjall, and Lundqvist (2010) propose that music induces emotions in only 55-65% of listening experiences. This represents a different theory: that to derive emotional value from music takes significantly more mental energy than just aurally processing music. According to this study, listeners do NOT always perceive emotions expressed in music.

I propose to test how often music that intentionally expresses the emotion of “confidence” actually makes the listener feel the intended emotion. First, I would create an online survey with about 20 different songs, and ask people to choose one of eight adjectives that best describes the piece. (These 20 songs would be picked from the classical genre so that words are not a confounding factor, and preferably NOT broadly known popular songs so that familiarity would not become a confound.) This would test the Gabriellson/Gerling conclusion that people do in fact hear emotions intended in music, and do agree with them (even if the emotion is not necessarily felt.) I would then have a scale where participants would rate how strongly they agree with the adjective’s connection to the music (which would test the Juslin et al theory—if people generally do not agree with their own choices or do not feel strongly about them, then perhaps this would throw off the study from the very beginning.)

After receiving survey responses, I would narrow down the song choices to the top two rated “most confident” songs, and the two that were rated antonyms, such as “timid” or “shy.” These two songs would become crucial for Part 2.

Part 2) There are a great many studies that have been written about shoppers and their participation with music while shopping. In Gordon C. Bruner’s study, “fast tempi elicited responses relating to exhilarating/joyous sorts of feelings…and sales volume is significantly higher with slow music than with fast music.” Part 2 is a simulation of a shopping experience influenced by the music chosen in part 1. First, they will be told to fill out a form with biographical information (how much musical training each participant had received) and wait in a waiting room, where either the “confident” music or the “timid” music will be playing. The participant will stay there for a minimum of 10 minutes.

After listening to the music, the participant will enter a different room, where he or she will be given a shopping list and a “budget” on a computer simulation. He or she will be shown computer screenshots from inventory of a well-known store, such as Target, and asked to purchase as many items as possible from the list while staying under budget. For example, if the shopping list says “laundry detergent,” the screenshot will show 4 or 5 brands of detergent with the different price points. (The one caveat to this is that at the lowest price point, there will always be more than one brand. This measure prohibits people from simply mathematically calculating the best option possible and choosing these items, rather than choosing those that they themselves would purchase.)

The computer will time, down to the nearest second, the length of time that it takes for participants to make their choices.

I hypothesize that those people that were entrained (consciously or not) to isochronous rhythms that people identified as “confident” will make, on average, faster and more decisive purchasing choices.

Motor Movement with Expertise

One aspect that I found really interesting in the Rammsayer article was that, “professional musicians develop a motor representation of music (Bangert & Altenmüller 2003; Haslinger et al. 2005) and may therefore need executive functions and motor patterns to deal with demanding tasks of tempo generalization.”

I think there are a lot of potential research questions in that statement, and I will pare down on these in the coming week. For example, when thinking about the motor representation of music, is that a specific type of expertise outside one purely for rhythm? Can people that develop “expertise” in motor representation of music (such as professional dancers) show the same types of rhythmic expertise as do musicians? On another note, it has been suggested that music therapy itself doesn’t necessarily help people with autism spectrum disorder, but the idea of moving to music in a pattern (such as conducting) does; is that a kind of expertise that can be developed as well?