Musicians Hear Emotion In Sound


No wonder rock stars are such tortured souls.

Musicians who bag an obscene amount of chicks may have a genetic advantage to thank. Well, that's not to discredit the more obvious, literal advantages—singing love songs in leather pants surrounded by dim lights and whisky shots can't hurt either.

According to a recent study by Northwestern researchers, musicians hear the emotion in sounds more than non-musicians. This means a flat and pissed off, "nothing's wrong, thanks" will have a harder time passing the trained guitar strummer's ears than say, an aloof blogger, who may just take you on face value and continue thinking of alternate words for "relationship."

An interdisciplinary Northwestern research team rounded up a group of musicians and non-musicians and had them watch a nature film with the  sounds of a child's distressed cry in the background. Both parties were measured by scalp electrodes, and the musicians were much better at discerning "the complex" emotional part of the child's cry while also immediately ignoring other sounds that didn't matter. This was not the case in non-musicians.

 “Quickly and accurately identifying emotion in sound is a skill that translates across all arenas, whether in the predator-infested jungle or in the classroom, boardroom or bedroom,” says Dana Strait, primary author of the study.

Researchers found that a nervous systems' ability to "process emotion in sound" was directly correlated by the years of musical experience and the earlier the age they began their music studies.

In fact, scientists are thinking musical training for children suffering from autism and Asberger’s syndromes (which are characterized by a lack of emotional understanding) may even aid in helping the children gain more empathy. 

Now if only all those slutty drummers in dingy indie rock bands (you know who you are) would use their innate "emotional understanding" for good and not evil, then perhaps we wouldn't roll our eyes everytime we met someone who's "in a band."