ICMPC Poster: Musical Intensity in Affect Regulaton: Interventons in Self-Harming Behavior

In partial fulfillment of my graduate thesis, this poster represents the findings of my study conducted at the University of California, San Diego. Presented July 5, 2016 at the 14th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition in San Francisco.

For full study, see chapter 2 of my thesis.

For PDF, see HERELD poster ICMPC.

Abstract:

Prior research associates listening to heavy music with reduced suicide risk, especially among teenage girls when utilized for vicarious release. Nevertheless, few studies consider the active use of heavy music in self-regulation for those who suffer from thoughts of self-harm and/or mental illness. In order to to better understand the mechanisms by which engaging with heavy and intense music may circumvent self-harming behavior, a pilot study is presented of 283 subjects. The majority of those surveyed report suffering from thoughts of self-harm or mental disorders. To examine the use of affect regulation via both generic (non-specified) and heavy, intense, and highly emotive music, we created the Music in Affect Regulation Questionnaire (MARQ), utilizing music in mood regulation (MMR) strategies from the work of Saarikallio. We identify heavy music by the presence of capacious, distorted riffs; loud, pervasive percussion; or an overall feeling of ‘raw power,’ emotion, and affective intensity stemming from the instrumental or vocal parts. Our findings collectively show that heavy music listeners (and those who have thoughts of self-harm, in particular) interact with definitively heavy, intense, or highly emotive music differently than with generic music, especially in the use of modulating negative mood. These findings seem less related to genre-specific categories than certain musical commonalities collectively understood as intensity, and provide significant evidence for heavy music’s ability to circumvent self-destructive impulses, especially when applied in tandem with specific listening strategies of affect-regulation. Additional evidence from prior case studies further suggests the value of deeper investigation of the conscientious use of heavy music as a potential intervention for those suffering from affect dysregulation and self-harm.

HERELD ICMPC

Musical Intensity in Affect Regulaton: Interventons in Self-Harming Behavior

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Help Fund My Thesis Research in Music, Mind, and the Brain

1511649_10100770379146070_1472478529_oHello all! Sincerest apologies for the severe lack of content over the past year or so. I have been tucked away studying music and psychology at UCSD, and who knew: grad school can be time-consuming! Luckily, I’m unwaveringly passionate about what I have been privileged to research, and I’ve enjoyed…well, many moments 🙂

To come to the point, I’d like to ask a bit of support in order to finish my thesis. In 2011, I received generous support from you all to attend my first conference surrounding music and the brain. Five years later, I find myself again in need of assistance to conduct research in my field. This time, however, your help will fund the final steps for completion of my thesis: broadly approaching how music might be used to combat and intervene in young people who struggle with self-destructive behavior. I have an immense faith in music’s capacity to heal, transform, and even save lives.

Taking place in 3 weeks, I have been invited to participate and present my research in the UK in Epigenesis and Philosophy: A Workshop on the Work of Catherine Malabou. This event brings together scholars in both the humanities and natural sciences. We will engage in critical discussion regarding our work in tandem with the work of the aforementioned French philosopher widely known for her ideas which merge philosophy, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis. Some of you may recall my enthusiasm for her work on plasticity as the catalyst for my decision to pursue graduate studies in how music may be used as a healing tool. I have since been lucky enough to converse with Catherine on a number of occasions, and she remains a primary source of inspiration and critical analysis in the wake of her timely question “What Should We Do With Our Brain?”

As a graduate student, I have been obscenely blessed with a fellowship that allows me to study in a wonderful program. Last year, I was awarded graduate travel stipends that allowed me to present my work locally and abroad. Unfortunately, the financial situation in my department is quite different this year, and it seems what few resources were available have been exhausted. Participation in the upcoming workshop would be a tremendous aid in research for the thesis (which must be completed by May of this year for graduation in June). The budget including air travel, ground transportation, food and lodging comes to around $1,700. 

Funding this vital research not only supports completion of my graduate thesis — it furthers investigation of the transformative healing, powers I believe music can have on the mind. Please consider joining others who have donated here and help us make the largest impact possible.

Give to this research

 

For information on the types of research I do, please feel free to contact me at dhereld@ucsd.edu or visit any of the sites below:

Abstract – Recovering the Voice Through Sonic Gesture: Contending the Annihilation of Self

Paper – Heavy and Light: Uncovering resilience and positive affect in extreme music

As The Spirit Wanes, or The Hope of Plasticity

Thank you so much for your support!

 

 

Steady on, science: Listening to extreme music can still make you angry

Dillinger Escape Plan - Derek Bremner Photography

Dillinger Escape Plan – Derek Bremner Photography

Last Thursday, I received my faithful biweekly edition of recent research from Neuromusic (Foundazione Mariani). One abstract in particular caught my attention, from the University of Queensland in Australia: Extreme metal music and anger processing. For you scientists/curious general public, here is the abstract, from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:

The claim that listening to extreme music causes anger, and expressions of anger such as aggression and delinquency have yet to be substantiated using controlled experimental methods. In this study, 39 extreme music listeners aged 18-34 years were subjected to an anger induction, followed by random assignment to 10 min of listening to extreme music from their own playlist, or 10 min silence (control). Measures of emotion included heart rate and subjective ratings on the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS). Results showed that ratings of PANAS hostility, irritability, and stress increased during the anger induction, and decreased after the music or silence. Heart rate increased during the anger induction and was sustained (not increased) in the music condition, and decreased in the silence condition. PANAS active and inspired ratings increased during music listening, an effect that was not seen in controls. The findings indicate that extreme music did not make angry participants angrier; rather, it appeared to match their physiological arousal and result in an increase in positive emotions. Listening to extreme music may represent a healthy way of processing anger for these listeners.

My initial reaction was “Great – I’m glad someone else is joining the research.” Two days later, I began receiving emails/texts/tweets from friends and colleagues as the resulting Telegraph.co.uk coverage invaded the internet. This is when I began to take issue:

At first glance, the headline of “Want to calm down? Listen to Slipknot or Judas Priest, study finds” evoked everything from mild anxiety (I’ve written on both those bands before, and the academic guilt of taking a few days off from thesis writing was strong indeed) to serious skepticism. Even after the great chocolate letdown of 2015, the media seemingly hasn’t learned much about the ethics of click-bait science. As my research and focus of my forthcoming thesis examines potential benefits of listening to heavy or extreme music  forthcoming thesis, I respect quite fully that though effects may seem potentially warm and fuzzy on paper (or growling, distorted, and occasionally packed with capacious riffs), it’s just not that simple.

We all know that the most difficult rhetoric from which to discern validity is often that which is filled with both conjecture and truth. Thanks to direct access to the research, some positive elements of the study immediately arise:

  • Strong supporting theoretical literature
  • Very useful summary of previous work
  • Though an understandingly still-controversial idea, they allowed listeners to choose their own music for the intended therapeutic purposes, as opposed to music therapy’s all-too-common ‘one size fits all’ approach (which, ironically, at the same time arguably contributes to the limitations of this study)

These strengths acknowledged, I’d strongly advise caution in depending on general media coverage for the story (or any scientific finding). Even if you get a portion of the story, you’re likely not getting the whole story, and that in itself is often where bunk journalism stakes its claim. Let’s look at some weaker points:

  • Though the results show that extreme music matches and helps to regulate anger, this effect may be particular to fans of extreme music that are not experiencing any symptoms of distress (unless given an anger induction exercise in a sterile lab setting). One only need sit my mother down with a bit of Megadeath to learn that the media headlines are grossly flawed in asserting “In order to calm down, one can just listen to Slipknot.” Trust me – this is not a universal response.
  • Enter David Huron, we don’t typically listen to sad music to feel more sad; we listen to sad music because it is capable of facilitating a type of catharsis (through which I loosely refer to as vicarious/empathetic/intentional listening). The same is possible of upbeat, “happy” music (although deeply subjective a term), and the same is likely of metal. Though arguably important, this is not news to the majority of us.
  • Leading bias. Participants were recruited via an advertisement for a study examining the “potential benefits” of extreme music. Though this may have been accurate, this is fairly largely frowned upon due to the need for objectivism in the scientific method.
  • As my good friend (and expert in all musics heavy and extreme) Troy recently pointed out: Though it seems all aggressive music is heavy, not all heavy music is aggressive. One of the greatest challenges I had in drafting my first paper on extreme music came to exactly that: What specifically constitutes heavy music? As the study seems to emphasize aggression and anger (and the concurrent media certainly bank on it), given the option to self-select musical stimuli, there’s going to be some lyrical and timbral disparity in which of the extreme music is by definition aggressive, and which is not. This should also be taken into account when measuring anger/arousal response.
  • 39 (40 original) participants. Though a great start, it will be good to see further research with a larger pool.
  • As the study points out, “the influence of negatively valenced music on listeners appears to depend on the listening context, their current mood, and moderation by other personality traits.” I need not go into detail here regarding the critical impact context, mood, and personality have on affect and arousal, but as I’ve recently argued, it is vital. Even those with sensory processing sensitivity or misophonia (myself included) will tell you there are absolutely times we could go for some Ne Obliviscaris full blast (I generally feel this way, truth be told). There are also times when a pen dropped two rooms over simply grates on my nerves, extreme music be darned.
  • Though the ‘self-selected music’ didn’t cause an increase of arousal after the anger induction, neither did silence (their one control condition). Conversely, the participant’s heart rates were reduced after anger induction during the silence control.* This poses some pretty hefty problems for a headline suggesting if one desires to “calm down” they should listen to extreme music.

Despite its sometimes rather severe reputation (remember Vance vs. Judas Priest?) there are many potential benefits of listening to extreme or heavy music. Whether or not an immediate reduction in arousal and /or heart rate (aka calming down) is universally, unfailingly one of them is up for debate.

That being said, through working with great organizations such as The You Rock Foundation, I’ve seen firsthand how heavy music can influence, enlighten, and even change people’s lives. Research in music psychology has shown music capable of providing listeners with relief from stress, a heightened sense of self, peace, meaning, solidarity, and community (Christenfeld, 2004; Huron, 2011; Moore, 2013; Shafer, Smukalla & Oelker, 2013). Music, in just the right setting, can also be detrimental. As can video games. Antidepressants. The kitchen sink. Cheese. One would do well to remember that consciousness, responsibility, and intentionality are key when examining the pros and cons of any stimulus or behavior.

So, regarding the outcries of the scientific media, in any regard: let’s all calm down just a bit, and if Slipknot/Metallica/Opeth is your thing – more power to you. If you’re quite content with Brahms/Ligeti/Bebop/Norah Jones – that’s okay, too.

Abstract: Sharman, L., & Dingle, G. A. (2015). Extreme metal music and anger processing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 272.

*However, there was no significant difference among music listeners between heart rate during Time 2 and Time 3, p > 0.999, indicating that the increased heart rate following the anger induction was sustained for the music listeners, but not for those in the silence condition.

The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: A Survey of Personality and Reward

The paradox of music-evoked sadness: an online survey

Taruffi L, Koelsch S – Published October 20, 2014

Department of Educational Sciences & Psychology and Cluster of Excellence, “Languages of Emotion”, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany

This study explores listeners’ experience of music-evoked sadness. Sadness is typically assumed to be undesirable and is therefore usually avoided in everyday life. Yet the question remains: Why do people seek and appreciate sadness in music? We present findings from an online survey with both Western and Eastern participants (N?=?772). The survey investigates the rewarding aspects of music-evoked sadness, as well as the relative contribution of listener characteristics and situational factors to the appreciation of sad music. The survey also examines the different principles through which sadness is evoked by music, and their interaction with personality traits.

Results show 4 different rewards of music-evoked sadness: reward of imagination, emotion regulation, empathy, and no “real-life” implications. Moreover, appreciation of sad music follows a mood-congruent fashion and is greater among individuals with high empathy and low emotional stability. Surprisingly, nostalgia rather than sadness is the most frequent emotion evoked by sad music. Correspondingly, memory was rated as the most important principle through which sadness is evoked. Finally, the trait empathy contributes to the evocation of sadness via contagion, appraisal, and by engaging social functions.

The present findings indicate that emotional responses to sad music are multifaceted, are modulated by empathy, and are linked with a multidimensional experience of pleasure. These results were corroborated by a follow-up survey on happy music, which indicated differences between the emotional experiences resulting from listening to sad versus happy music. This is the first comprehensive survey of music-evoked sadness, revealing that listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation. Such beneficial emotional effects constitute the prime motivations for engaging with sad music in everyday life.

TABLE 2: Summary of the situations in which participants engage with sad music, and functions of listening to sad music in those circumstances.

TABLE 2: Summary of the situations in which participants engage with sad music, and functions of listening to sad music in those circumstances.

TABLE 6: Summary of the situations in which participants engage with happy music and functions of listening to happy music in those circumstances.

TABLE 6: Summary of the situations in which participants engage with happy music and functions of listening to happy music in those circumstances.

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And for our Italian friends:

Questo studio esplora l’esperienza della tristezza indotta dall’ascolto della musica. La tristezza è comunemente considerata un’emozione negativa e pertanto evitata nella vita quotidiana. Rimane una questione aperta: perché quindi le persone apprezzano la musica triste? Gli Autori presentano i risultati di uno studio condotto online che ha coinvolto 722 partecipanti occidentali e orientali. Lo studio indaga gli effetti gratificanti delle emozioni tristi evocate dalla musica, nonché l’apporto relativo alle caratteristiche dell’ascoltatore e alle situazioni che contribuiscono all’apprezzamento della musica triste. Lo studio esamina inoltre i differenti principi attraverso i quali la tristezza viene evocata dalla musica e la sua interazione con i tratti della personalità.

I risultati mostrano quattro diversi aspetti gratificanti della musica triste: l’effetto dell’immaginazione, la regolazione delle emozioni, l’empatia e l’assenza di implicazioni nella vita reale. Inoltre, l’apprezzamento della musica triste segue una modalità congruente con l’umore ed è più grande tra gli individui con maggiore empatia e minore stabilità emotiva. Sorprendentemente la nostalgia piuttosto che la tristezza è l’emozione più frequente evocata dalla musica triste. Di conseguenza, la memoria è stata valutata come il principio più importante attraverso il quale l’emozione viene evocata dalla musica triste. Infine, il tratto di empatia contribuisce all’evocazione della tristezza attraverso il contagio, l’apprezzamento e il coinvolgimento delle funzioni sociali. I presenti risultati indicano che la risposta emotiva alla musica triste è sfaccettata, modulata dall’empatia e collegata a una esperienza multidimensionale del piacere.

Questi risultati sono stati corroborati da una ricerca successiva sulla musica allegra, che mostra differenze tra le esperienze emotive nell’ascolto di musica felice o triste. Questo è il primo studio comprensivo sulla tristezza evocata dalla musica, e rivela che l’ascolto della musica triste può portare benefici emotivi come la regolazione delle emozioni negative e dell’umore, oltre che della consolazione. Questi benefici emozionali costituiscono una ragione per ascoltare la musica triste durante la vita quotidiana.

Information provided by abstract – full study may be found here.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110490.t002

(My favorite ‘sad’ video of all time below).

UCSD, Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center Launch Convergence 2014: A Multidisciplinary Dialogue on Music

The Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center and the Department of Music at UC San Diego, in collaboration with Mozart and the Mind present:

Convergence: A Multidisciplinary Dialogue on Music

A unique symposium that brings together multiple streams of music research and knowledge, Convergence is not only a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue but also an opportunity for collaboration. Neuroscientists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, composers, performers, and music therapists will participate in a series of panel discussions moderated by music researchers from the Temporal Damics of Learning Center. This multidisciplinary dialogue will extend into an evening poster session.

Sunday, May 18, 2014, 8am to 7pm
Conrad Prebys Music Center, Room127, UC San Diego
Map and directions to Conrad Prebys Music Center (CPMC)

For further information, registration, or webcast registration, please visit:
http://convergencetdlc2014.eventbrite.com

Registration: $45 general, $15 student

Featured Panelists

David Borgo, Diana Deutsch, Dane Harwood, Carl Hermanns, Mari Jones, Layne Kalbfleisch, Lei Liang, Andy McGraw, Gabriella Mussachia, Roger Reynolds, Katharina Rosenberger, Michael Thaut, Concetta Tomaino

Information provided by the UCSD Press Room

Convergence

 

 

 

 

‘Beautiful but sad’ music can help people feel better

psychology-sad-music-enhances-mood-300x214Listening to sad music in adverse situations: How music selection strategies relate to self-regulatory goals, listening effects, and mood enhancement

Annemieke J.M. Van den Tol, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Keynes E-105, Canterbury, CT2 7NP, UK. Email: A.J.M.van-den-Tol@kent.ac.uk

Abstract

Adults’ (N = 220) reported motivations for listening to sad music after experiencing adverse negative circumstances were examined by exploring how their music selection strategies related to (a) their self-regulatory goals, and (b) reported effects of listening. The effects of music selection strategies, self-regulatory goals, and reported effects on the achievement of mood enhancement were also explored using a retrospective survey design. The findings indicate that music choice is linked to the individual’s identified self-regulatory goals for music listening and to expected effects. Additionally, the results show that if individuals had intended to achieve mood enhancement through music listening, this was often achieved by first experiencing cognitive reappraisal or distraction. The selection of music with perceived high aesthetic value was the only music selection strategy that directly predicted mood enhancement. Where respondents indicated that they chose music with the intention of triggering memories, this was negatively related to the self-regulatory goal of mood enhancement.

Source: neurosciencenews.com, Psychology of Music (SAGE)

Music, Mind and Meaning Conference at the Peabody Institute – Day 2 Recap

1779146_10100787537465660_2115934_nMusic, Mind and Meaning Conference – Day 2

Friday commenced with the morning keynote delivered by Dr. Ani Patel, entitled Does instrumental musical training enhance the brain’s processing of speech? In Patel’s articulate and informative lecture, he began by drawing our attention to the following: “Music and language have important connections as cognitive and neural systems, and that has implications for theoretical debates about how the mind is organized – for evolutionary studies on the origins of these abilities, and practical issues about remediation of language disorders” (Patel, 2014). Though the parallels in music and language are less novel on account of the publication of his 2008 book Music, Language and the Brain, the implications of instrumental training lending to developments in language and speech are very much so. In conclusion, operating with his extended OPERA hypothesis, Patel emphasizes that regardless of the varying direction and debates these studies may undergo, “Comparative music and language research really does deepen our understanding of human communication.” (Patel, 2014).

Dr. Elizabeth Tolbert spoke next, providing an evolutionary perspective in Music, Meaning and Becoming Human. Approaching the co-evolution of music, meaning and social intelligence, Tolbert addressed music as a behavior, not object; of possessing a social ontology, and its implicational model as derived from social interaction, shared intentionality and social intelligence. Her overarching thesis states “the story of becoming human is the story of the development of a specifically human type of meaning rooted in social intelligence, and one that likely has its origins in proto-musical behavior.” (Tolbert, 2014).

IMG_9286Dr. Ian Cross’s lecture entitled Music, Participation and Interaction further expanded on the day’s existing idea of music not only as a “practice composed by the few and consumed by many,” but as the encompassment of interactive processes far beyond a role of abstract structures, symbolic realms or lofty themes. As uniquely flexible and socially cooperative creatures, humans are capable of utilizing music as not only a mode of communicating information and ideals, but at times as phatic organisms. Cross went on to explain with conviction that if this theory were more widely considered, the insinuation might result in music being given the proper chance to utilize it’s more pragmatic magic in resolving social uncertainties (and thus social anxiety), provide powerful effects on memory and social attitude, and “provide us with new perspectives on the investigation of music beyond the bounds of Western culture” (Cross, 2014).

The second keynote, Losing the Beat: A New Window on Human Rhythm was given Dr. Isabelle Peretz (University of Montreal). Peretz has published over two hundred and fifty five scientific papers regarding everything from perception, emotion and memory to singing and dancing. In Losing the Beat, Peretz explained that a defining characteristic of human interaction with music is “the identity and ability to move to the beat.” Although this universal faculty is typically formed early in life, her recent research shows that some individuals suffer from the inability to synchronize with beats in music. This disorder is referred to as beat deafness, a new form of congenital amusia. In her presentation, Peretz conveyed a strong sensibility for the cause of studying musical disorders in regard to “reverse-engineering of the musical brain” (Peretz, 2014).

IMG_9311Later in the afternoon, Andrea Halpern took the floor to share her work on auditory imagery, and to describe her study examining the neural loci of imagined music. Halpern is a pioneer in her long-standing devotion to the field from early in its development. She has contributed fundamental work on memory and perception of musical structure, including studies on earworms and the persistence of musical memories), effects of timbre and tempo change, and perception of emotion in sounded and imagined music. In her presentation Auditory Imagery: Linking Internal and External Music, Halpern presented the argument that although internal and external music experiences are distinctive encounters, they share a number of important similarities, which both musicians and nonmusicians can exploit to enhance the musical experience.

Photo 1 – Diana Hereld

Photos 2, 3 – Scott Metcalfe

Note: I must include an apology for the delay in reporting on the conference this weekend. I simply found myself so wonderfully overwhelmed with information (but overwhelmed regardless) that I was unsure how to encapsulate the day’s culmination of so many brilliant minds in presentation of their most recent work. As a result, I’ve decided to report individually on each of them in the near future. A few other outlets have picked up specific coverage, and I will advise as those are released. I will also be sharing a summation of the conference’s concluding rountable featuring the speakers and performers, which was truly a thing to behold.