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Behind melody cravings

 — #psychology

We are naturally inclined to seek out music that is congruent with our current emotional state.

The congruence theory posits that matching music to our emotions serves a cognitive function, allowing us to process and understand our feelings more deeply. It proposes that when the music hear with our emotions, it reinforces and validates our current psychological state, creating a sense of harmony and emotional coherence.

Another theory is that we are drawn to emotional harmony because it can amplify those feelings.

Neurological Mirroring and Emotional Processing

From a neurological perspective, this phenomenon is explained by the concept of emotional mirroring1. Our brain is equipped neurons responsible for empathizing and understand the others' emotions.

When we hear music that mirrors our current emotional state, these neurons activate, simulating the same emotion within us, thus intensifying our emotional experience.

The limbic system, which includes structures such as the amygdala and hippocampus, plays a key role in emotion regulation and processing. Mood tunes resonates with the limbic system, catalyzing some emotional response. This alignment allows for an emotional catharsis2, where we can experience and release pent-up feelings.

The Effect of Music on the Brain's Reward System

Our brain's reward system is activated. Dopamine. That neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, it self regulates. Providing a sense of satisfaction or disatisfaction. Its release is amplified when the climate is congruent with our emotional state, as it creates a sense of coherence, predictability and familiarity, which the brain recognizes as rewarding.

The Benefits of Emotionally Congruent

Forms emotional expression, allowing one to articulate feelings they may not have been able to express otherwise. Secondly, it can lead to a sense of belonging and understanding, providing comfort in knowing that others have experienced similar emotions, as conveyed through the art and medium of music. And, can be a tool for emotional regulation, helping navigate and work through complicated emotional landscapes.

The inclination to listen to music that reflects our emotional state is rooted in psychological congruence and neurological processes. By syncing our music choices with our emotions, we can engage in a more meaningful and cathartic listening experience.

The Impact of Sound Frequencies on Mood: Exploring the Auditory Influence on Emotions

Humans have been keenly aware of the influence of music and sound on mood. But beyond the realm of melodies and rhythms, it is often the underlying frequencies of sounds that can have a profound effect on our emotional state.

Melodic Color

The intersection between auditory science and psychological response.

The Brain's Response to Sound Frequencies

Different frequencies engage different parts of the brain and can elicit different emotional responses. For example, low-frequency sounds (such as a deep bass or the rumble of thunder) can feel powerful and grounding but can also induce feelings of anxiety or unease for some.

This is partly because low frequencies are often associated with larger environmental threats and can trigger a primal response within the brain's amygdala, the area responsible for processing emotions, especially fear.

Conversely, high-frequency sounds (such as birds chirping or a child's laughter) can create a sense of alertness and happiness. These sounds stimulate the auditory cortex and can induce the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. The positive emotions experienced from high-frequency sounds are likely tied to evolutionary biology, as these sounds often signaled safety and an abundance of resources.

The Emotional Power of Melody: Beyond Frequency

Melody, the sequential arrangement of musical tones, transcends mere individual notes. It is the aspect of music that lingers in memory, often evoking profound emotional responses.

Melodic Color

While the frequency of individual notes does play a role in this responsiveness, the mood of a melody is often a product of several interwoven musical elements that give it an emotive quality, be it joyful, sorrowful, or anything in between.

The Anatomy of Melody

A melody's capacity to convey emotion depends on a combination of factors, including:

  • Contour: The upward or downward movement of the melody. Ascending contours are often perceived as hopeful and uplifting, whereas descending contours are frequently associated with sadness or reflection.
  • Interval: The distance between two consecutive notes. Larger intervals can suggest excitement or surprise, while smaller intervals often create a feeling of calmness or somberness.
  • Rhythm: The pattern of long and short notes within a melody. A steady, repetitive rhythm may evoke a feeling of stability and resolve, while a more syncopated or varied rhythm can either bring a sense of uneasiness or invigorate the listener with energy.
  • Harmony: The combination of different musical notes played simultaneously. The chords that underpin a melody can color its emotional tone, with major chords leaning towards happiness and minor chords towards melancholy.
  • Dynamics: The variation in loudness throughout the melody. Dynamic shifts can play a significant role in expressing emotion, with crescendos (increases in volume) often building tension or intensity and diminuendos (decreases in volume) signal release or introspection.
  • Articulation: How notes are played regarding attack and decay. The smooth connection of notes (legato) or sharp, distinct notes (staccato) can greatly influence the mood conveyed by the melody.

The Emotional Narratives of Melodies

Composers often use the elements above to craft narrative arcs within their melodies. A melancholic piece may start with a slow, descending minor melody, utilizing legato articulation to emphasize longing or sorrow.

In contrast, a joyful melody might be characterized by a lively, ascending theme with energetic rhythms and major harmonies.

Cultural and Personal Associations

The emotive quality of a melody can also be shaped by cultural conventions and personal associations. Certain melodic patterns or phrase structures may have a particular significance in different cultures, influencing how they are perceived emotionally.

And, we attach personal memories or feelings to particular melodies based on experiences, further affecting their emotional response.

The Universality of Melody

While cultural and personal backgrounds play a role in our emotional reactions to melody, there are certain universals in how people react to music. Studies have shown that infants and adults across diverse cultures can identify happy and sad melodies, suggesting that the language of music taps into deep-seated, possibly innate, emotional understandings.

On the Importance of Expressing Emotions: Unpacking the Psychological and Physical Need

Emotions are an intrinsic part of our human experience. They influence our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions, can serve barometer for our well-being. Is used to communicate. Expressing emotions, rather than suppressing them, seems to be crutial for both our mental and physical health. But why is the need to express emotions so significant?

The Psychological Perspective: Emotional Expression as Catharsis

The act of expressing emotions is a cathartic process. One having the need to express certian emotions. If left unaddressed, to increased stress and anxiety. The cathartic theory, originally articulated by Aristotle and later expanded by Sigmund Freud, says that the release of emotional tension through expression is therapeutic and leads to a state of purification or cleansing.

Failure to express emotions can result in what psychologists term 'emotional bottling' or 'repression3, which can ultimately manifest in maladaptive ways, panic attacks4 is one. Mood disorders, increased aggression, or even physical symptoms. Letting the expression of feelings take their course is a coping to reducing psychological distress.

Emotion Suppression

The Physical Consequences: The Mind-Body Connection

The mind-body connection5 highlights the relationship between our emotional state and physical health. Chronic suppression of emotions can lead to a weakening of the immune system, somatic symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal problems.

Expressing emotions lowers cortisol levels, the body's primary stress hormone. Lower cortisol levels are associated with reduced blood pressure and a decreased risk of heart disease.

The Social Function: Building Relationships and Communities

On a social level, emotions serve as signals to others, conveying our needs, desires, and boundaries. Being able to communicate our emotions effectively fosters empathy, understanding, and stronger connections with those around us.

Emotional expression is foundational to the development of resilient communities. When individuals feel able to express their emotions, it can encourage a culture of openness and support, providing a communal coping mechanism that strengthens social bonds and collective well-being.