Sense of sound

Part
01
of one
Part
01

The Sense of Hearing

According to studies, the type and intensity of emotional reactions are strongly connected with sound and music, which is further amplified by our personal experiences and tendencies.

The sense of hearing

  • A study by Lionel Tiger identified that touching, hearing, and smelling are the three physio-pleasures enjoyed by humans.
  • A publication from Tufts University highlighted that our sense of hearing is extremely important and when it comes to learning, hearing is one of the first senses humans grasp and it allows us to assimilate information about the world before anything else.
  • The same study by Tufts University emphasized that people with hearing impairment severely lack emotional understanding.

Interrelation between sound and positive emotion

  • It has been found that the type and intensity of emotional reactions are strongly connected with sound and music, which is further magnified by our personal experiences and tendencies.
  • As per the researchers of UCLA, sound of laughter is a positive sound signifying amusement.
  • It was also found that with hearing impairment, humans lose the emotional impact tied to sounds.
  • It was also seen that experiences such as nature walks becomes less pleasurable with hearing impairment when humans, for example, can't enjoy the sounds of flowing water.
  • A study by Lund University found that the function of the auditory system is to provide aesthetic qualities to sounds such as a bird's song, the wind blowing in the canopy of a tree, and the sound of the sea. This gives refreshment and positive experiences to people.
  • Another study found out that sounds centered around a major chord generally produces positive emotions such as happiness, surprise etc.

Sound in the form of Music and Positive Emotions

  • A research done by Durham University in the United Kingdom and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland proved that even somber music has the ability to bring pleasure and comfort to its listeners.
  • On the other hand, another study from 2013 states that 'listening to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks'.
  • Apart from generating positive emotions, music could also reduce negative emotions such as depression and anxiety along with increasing self-esteem.
  • According to a scientific study, music is one of the stimuli that is most likely to evoke a memory or intense reaction.
  • To look into the physiological reason driving this intense emotional reaction, it was discovered by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital that listening to music released dopamine which was a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for tangible pleasures and which caused physical changes in heart rate, breathing, and temperature which could be assumed to be causing excitement or exhilaration.

Your research team applied the following strategy:

To find out evidences establishing the fact that 'the sense of hearing (sound) is the most important sense when it comes to positive emotions' and to find out supporting qualitative and quantitative evidences, we examined researches, studies, and survey papers on positive emotions and sound and hearing in domains such as sciencemag.org, sciencedirect.com, researchgate, academia, tandfonline, google scholar, archive.org etc. This search was also extended into purely medical studies published in NCBI, Pubmed etc.

From studies published in these sources, it was found that sound or hearing was one of the sensory inputs or stimuli that generated emotions in humans. However, there was no study that established that it was the most important sense when it comes to positive emotions like excitement and exhilaration. Secondly, it was evident that diverse type of sounds generated diverse emotions in humans which could be classified as both positive and negative.

Further, we looked into journals of psychology and psychiatry such as Journal of Positive Psychology and Journal of Psychiatry which although agreed upon the fact that sense of hearing or sound had the potential to generate positive emotions, in absence of comparative studies done with other senses such as touching or seeing, it was difficult to infer whether it was the most important or one of the most important senses when it comes to positive emotions. We also looked into studies done by universities such as Tufts University, UCLA, Lund University, Sweden etc. But none of these studies could provide evidences that the sense of hearing (or sound) is integral to positive emotions. Similar searches were done in sources which commonly publishes scientific articles such as healthline.com or time magazine. But these sources also did not prove the indispensability of the sense of hearing in generating positive emotions. In view of the limitations aforementioned, we deployed the following alternative search strategies:

finding Alternate Datasets

To analyze the topic from a reverse perspective, we decided to look into evidences where sound has been used as the most effective tool to bring someone out of negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and generate positive emotions in him/her. While evidences of sound as a healer of negative emotions was available in sources such as experiencelife.com, upliftconnect.com, Gaia.co, healthline.com, ncbi and scientific American.com, none of these sources provided any information on the comparative aspect of the effectiveness of hearing to the application of other senses. All the studies were focused on the standalone benefits of hearing or sound. Therefore, the data found was not enough to prove it as the most important sense when it comes to positive emotions like excitement and exhilaration.

Checking Credible Databases

The credible databases included medical study database such as NCBI Pubmed, database of journals such as Sagepub and databases of academic studies (overall) such as academia or researchgate. However, none of these sources could lead to any evidence proving the superiority of the sense of hearing.

Locating Paywalled sources

We also looked for comprehensive publications, mostly books, concerning the topic from sites such as Wiley online library, google scholar, tandfonline, archive.org etc. One of the books from Wiley online library called 'The Effects of Sound on People' was found as a paid resource which included topics such as coverage of both positive and negative effects of sound and how the operation of the hearing mechanism affects our reactions to sounds. The book can be purchased here.

Broadening the criteria

In the absence of required data, proving that the sense of hearing is the most important sense when it comes to positive emotions, we expanded the scope to find the relation between the sense of hearing, (sound and music) with that of the generation of positive emotions. Insights, which were obtained from this expansion, has been provided in this brief.
Sources
Sources

Quotes
  • "Lionel Tiger’s four pleasure model (Tiger, 1992) describes a framework for the different types of pleasure enjoyed by people, such as physio-pleasure (touching, hearing, and smelling), psycho-pleasure (cognition, discovery, knowledge), socio-pleasure (feeling of belonging, signaling, conversation-starter, social self-identification, social awareness), and ideo-pleasure (signaling or reinforcing ideological standpoints or values)."
Quotes
  • "It just makes sense that our sense of hearing (pun intended) underlies so much of our learning in emotion. Hearing is one of the first senses we really grasp. Babies are said to be in tune to the voices from early on. Hearing allows us to take in information about the world before anything else. You sometimes hear aspects of a situation before you arrive at the scene. As seen in this post, our auditory cortex increases in response to emotional tones. Those who are deaf have severely impacted emotional understanding. "
Quotes
  • "It has long been accepted that there are strong connections among sound, music, emotion, and memory, and that our personal experiences and tendencies determine the type and intensity of emotional reaction we have to distinct sounds."
  • "UCLA researchers have observed that the sound of laughter is globally recognized as a positive sound signifying amusement"
  • "Irrespective of your particular responses to different sounds, what is certain is that your emotions are directly involved. With hearing loss, you not only lose the capability to hear certain sounds, you also lose the emotional impact tied to the sounds you can either no longer hear or can no longer hear comfortably."
  • "With hearing loss, for example, nature walks become less pleasurable when you can no longer hear the faint sounds of flowing wate"
  • "The bottom line is that hearing is more important to our lives—and to our emotional lives—than we probably realize. It also indicates that treating your hearing loss will most likely have a greater impact than you realize, too."
Quotes
  • "Still another function of the auditory system is to provide aesthetical qualities: music is important to most persons, and we also appreciate sounds in the nature like bird song, the wind blowing in the canopy of a tree, and the sound of the sea on a beach. These sensory inputs give us refreshment and positive experiences."
  • "Evaluative conditioning (EC) refers to a process whereby an emotion is induced by music simply because this stimulus has been paired with other positive or negative stimuli. For instance, a specific piece of music may have occurred repeatedly together in time with a specific event that always makes you happy such as meeting your best friend. Over time, through repeated pairings, the music itself will, eventually, arouse happiness even in the absence of the friendly interaction."
Quotes
  • "Sounds centered around a major chord will generally produce positive emotions (happiness, surprise), and sounds centered around a minor or diminished chord will consistently produce negative emotions(sadness, fear, anger, disgust). "
  • "Subjects hearing Major Chords felt more positive emotions like happiness and surprise."
Quotes
  • "Researchers have pondered the possible therapeutic and mood boosting benefits of music for centuries. Even sad music brings most listeners pleasure and comfort, according to recent research from Durham University in the United Kingdom and the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, published in PLOS ONE."
  • "A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks."
  • "A recent review in the World Journal of Psychiatry found that music therapy can be an effective treatment for mood disorders related to neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. After reviewing 25 trials, the researchers concluded that music is a valid therapy to potentially reduce depression and anxiety, as well as to improve mood, self-esteem, and quality of life."
Quotes
  • "For as long as sound has existed, music has always been tied to deep emotion in all living beings. It's one of the stimuli that are most likely to evoke a memory or intense reaction, one of the strange phenomena that allow humans to access a different mental or emotional space than the one they were in before."
  • "The reason for these sensations, as discovered in a study by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, is that the experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for tangible pleasures such as food, sex, or drugs. Certain instances of dopamine release were associated with "chills"--physical changes in heart rate, breathing, and temperature, due to listening to music."
  • "For the listener, musical chills feel something like a sudden onset of emotion--a mental reaction followed by an actual physical reaction of the body to the sound. Sometimes, we are able to identify such chills by the feeling of shivers running down the backs of our spines; others, we think of them as goosebumps rising on our skin from being so moved."
  • "In the study, a number of brain imaging techniques were employed in order to monitor the changes of dopamine when listening to certain music. It was even concluded that this was the first time such a substantial dopamine release was brought about by an abstract reward--in this case, music."