Music Alters Visual Perception

Music is not only able to affect your mood – listening to particularly happy or sad music can even change the way we perceive the world, according to researchers from the University of Groningen in the academic journal PLoS ONE. Music and mood are closely interrelated – listening to a sad or happy song on the radio can make you feel more sad or happy. However, such mood changes not only affect how you feel, they also change your perception. For example, people will recognize happy faces if they are feeling happy themselves. A new study by researcher Jacob Jolij and student Maaike Meurs of the Psychology Department of the University of Groningen shows that music has an even more dramatic effect on perception: even if there is nothing to see, people sometimes still see happy faces when they are listening to happy music and sad faces when they are listening to sad music. Smileys; Jolij and Meurs had their test subjects perform a task in which they had to identify happy and sad smileys while listening to happy or sad music. Music turned out to have a great influence on what the subjects saw:

smileys that matched the music were identified much more accurately. And even when no smiley at all was shown, the subjects often thought they recognized a happy smiley when listening to happy music and a sad one when listening to sad music.Expectation; The latter finding is particularly interesting according to the researchers. Jolij: ‘Seeing things that are not there is the result of top-down processes in the brain. Conscious perception is largely based on these top-down processes: your brain continuously compares the information that comes in through your eyes with what it expects on the basis of what you know about the world. The final result of this comparison process is what we eventually experience as reality. Our research results suggest that the brain builds up expectations not just on the basis of experience but on your mood as well. – Visual perception is not a passive process: in order to efficiently process visual input, the brain actively uses previous knowledge (e.g., memory) and expectations about what the world should look like. However, perception is not only influenced by previous knowledge. Especially the perception of emotional stimuli is influenced by the emotional state of the observer. In other words, how we perceive the world does not only depend on what we know of the world, but also by how we feel. In this study, we further investigated the relation between mood and perception. Methods and Findings;  We let observers do a difficult stimulus detection task, in which they had to detect schematic happy and sad faces embedded in noise. Mood was manipulated by means of music. We found that observers were more accurate in detecting faces congruent with their mood, corroborating

earlier research. However, in trials in which no actual face was presented, observers made a significant number of false alarms. The content of these false alarms, or illusory percepts, was strongly influenced by the observers’ mood. Conclusions;  As illusory percepts are believed to reflect the content of internal representations that are employed by the brain during top-down processing of visual input, we conclude that top-down modulation of visual processing is not purely predictive in nature: mood, in this case manipulated by music, may also directly alter the way we perceive the world. Dr Jacob Jolij Assistant Professor. Expertise:consciousness, unconscious processing, cognitive and social neuroscience, TMS, EEG. I am a cognitive neuroscientist, working on the interaction between social cognitive processes on the one hand, and conscious and unconscious perception on the other. I am primarily interested in how ‘hot cognition’ (mood, emotion, attitudes) shapes our conscious perception of the world, by means of top-down modulation and attentional filtering of sensory input. To study these processes, I use neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI, EEG, and TMS in addition to behavioural experiments. Apart from basic science, I am also working on applied problems, in particular the detection of deception in still images and movie clips of interrogations. This work is funded by the Foundation for Police and Science, an affiliate of the Dutch Police Academy. Together with Dr Elkan Akyurek, and Dr Mark Nieuwenstein, I am in the Heymans Vision and Cognition Lab; moreover I am a member of Prof Addie Johnson’s Human Performance and Ergonomics Lab. News from: University of Groningen Netherlands

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