Psychology dissertation introduction example

Psychology dissertation introduction example

Emotional arousal and the Mozart Effect: An exploration of the power of music on individuals spatial temporal reasoning ability in the context of 21st century contemporary music styles.


Previous research suggested that Listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos in D Maj causes a temporary increase on spatial temporal reasoning performance, Rauscher, Shaw & Ky,(1993,1995). The Oxford dictionary of psychology defines spatial ability being “the capacity to perform tasks requiring the mental manipulation of spatial relationships”, most papers agree that spatial temporal reasoning is the ability to perform spatial transformations that take place in a time ordered sequence. Alfred Tomatis whose book ‘Pourquoi Mozart’(1991) explored the extent to which music could be used to retrain the ear in attempts to conquer a number of vocal disabilities. His research was predominantly based around Mozart’s pieces which He invested in the idea that the differing frequencies in his pieces promoted healing and development. This would lead Mozart’s music and to become the centre of attention in debates over our physiological relationship with music. Vernon Mountcastle (1955-1959) suggested that transmission between cortical structures is achieved through cortical structures known as columns; within these columns are a number of mini-columns. Mountcastle’s model of cortical structures described the columns neuronal connectivity as an organisation of the cerebral cortex made up of vertical groups of cells which made their way across a number of cellular layers, giving them the ability to generate multiple neuronal outputs after stimulation of localised cortical structures, producing a coded framework for neuronal activity to communicate across a number of different cortical structures. This is possible due to similar receptive fields in the columns and the horizontally overlapping characteristics of their receptive fields causing complex firing patterns.

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Guided by the Mountcastle’s organisational principle, Leng & Wright(1990) developed a conceptualisation known as the Trion Model which attempted to gain insight in to how the cortical column structure may underlie our ability to process higher cognitive abilities, especially those which require the handling of dynamic and abstract relations between patterns that are organised in to groups (i.e musical cognition), they suggested that the inhibitory and excitory actions within the trions(localised groups of neurons within the coloumns) produce the formation and transformation of complex quasi stable temporal firing patterns, these firing patterns can be enhanced through slight changes in their connectivity according to the Hebb learning principle, neurons which are exposed to persistant and repeated excitation undergo metabolic transformations which strengthen signal transmission. Hebb(1949). These enhancements lead to neuronal firing patterns that feed in to temporal sequences known as the Monte Carlo simulations. These have a longer lasting effect and are dispersed through most of the cortex, Shaw,Shenoy& Mcgrann(1993). It is assumed from EEG correlation research that higher brain functions are localised, however they draw upon many other parts of the brain, Petsche, Richter,Von stein & Filz(1993) Petsche, Von Stein & Shaw(1997). It was suggested by Leng & Shaw(1991) that these Monte Carlo firing patterns stimulated by mozarts music could organise the neural networking in to organisations that promote spatial temporal performance. This is due to the excitation of firing patterns that are also used during spatial temporal processing.

It is due to our primary sense of hearing that we are able to perceive music in the first place. And this is due to the ears’ ability to perceive the different sound pressure waves in our atmosphere, Hodges &Sebald (2011) from the ear through the auditory nerve information is scattered across diffused pathways which represent localised processing centres within the brain which analyse the information for particular features. All these information centres then re-convene on the auditory cortex and areas related to form a coherent sound experience with meaning. Beament, (2003) from the brain stem some fibres from an area called the ventral cochlear extend to another localised area known as the reticular formation. Here information is allowed to be passed across many areas of the brain including systems in the cortex and the spinal cord. It is important to consider these ideas as it gives evidence that music processing is a phenomenon that occurs across more than one region of the brain. The Primary audio cortex contains around 100 million auditory cells, Handel(1989)and through the intercommunication between these cells and specific auditory units that that we can respond to different types of sound stimuli, such as complex versus pure tones, Bendor & Wang(2005), we start to get the idea that our auditory perception is no simple localised feature of our consciousness.

Rauscher, Shaw and Ky (1993) found that just after listening to ten minutes of Mozart’s piece that they scored significantly higher on spatial temporal tasks compared to ten minutes of Relaxation tapes, and ten minutes of silence. Their Research was motivated by the lack of causal evidence between how we process music cognitively, and the relationship between these processes and higher brain functioning. Their work supported the Shaw & Leng(1991) Trion model prediction, although early media publications of the report stayed true to the original piece of research. Shifts in media and public interest occurred with publications such as Don Campbell’s books “The Mozart effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit (1997) and “The Mozart Effect for Children:Awakening Your Child’s Mind, Health and Creativity with Music (2000)” caused a “spike in media interest which began to diverge from the original significance of Raushcer et al’s(1993) report Bangerter & Health(2004). Don Campbell’s books make a broad range of claims over the power of Mozart’s music and its ability to heal a number of biological and psychological difficulties and its function as a tool to expand people’s lives intellectually. Although respected as an “authority” on the matter of the Mozart effect, much of his work has been sceptically approached due to a lack of empirical research. The media frenzy that followed publishing’s on the Mozart effect was phenomenal considering the actual implications of Rauscher. et al’s original study. In Georgia legislation was passed that made $105,000 available specifically for the purchase of classical music for the infants of the state, Sack(1998), and other states following key with Florida passing law that meant music had to be played in Nurseries to accommodate the “necessary stimulation” for brain development at this crucial age, (State of Florida Senate Bill 660, May 21, 1998) Bangerter & Health(2004) suggest how the Media quickly picked up on the term “Mozart effect” as an easy way of increasing a person’s general IQ. The Mozart effect has found itself in the middle of a scientific Legend Fraser & Gaskell, (1990) who claims it is the “widespread belief that propagates in society, originally arising from scientific study, but that has been transformed to deviate in essential ways from the understanding of scientists”. Bangeerter & Healths(2004) study provided evidence that suggested the Mozart effect may have struck a chord within the population due to ideas such as “infantile determinism”, Kragen(1998). This is described as anxieties bound around the idea that early childhood education is essential years that are crucial for childhood development, an example of this is how Rauscher(1997) study of musicality in school children increased spatial temporal performance was blown out of focus, and how “infantile determinism” can lead the public’s focus to be on anxieties that may arise around infantile development.

After Rauscher, Shaw & Kys (1993) original study research focused on the reliability of their results through a number of replications. Rauscher and colleagues also received support from their findings through a number of replications carried out independently. Rideout & Taylor(1997), Rideout, Dougherty & Wernert (1998) Rideout & Laubach(1996) and Rauscher, Shaw & Ky(1995) Thompson, Shellengberg, & Husain(2006) However the controversy that falls over the “Mozart Effect” arises from the amount of literature that does not support the original hypothesis Chabris,(1999), Husain et al, (2002) McKelvie & Low (2002); Nantais & Schellenberg, (1999), Steele, (2003); Steele, Bass, & Crook, (1999); Steele, Brown, & Stoecker, (1999). Some studies suggest that the positive effect in spatial temporal reasoning that has been observed in past research is mediated by changes in emotional state. Shellenberg, Nakata, Hunter, and Tomato(2007) Research into music and emotional states has suggested that changes in cognitive performance caused by listening to music depend largely on arousal and mood changes. Based on Russell(1980) circuplex model of emotions, our emotional processing is split across two distinct dimensions. The first he labels as “arousal”, this is the degree to which an individual becomes physically and psychologically activated or refers to the physiological intensity of the emotional experience. The second dimension he labels as “Mood”, this dimension is expressed along a positive/negative continuum. Thompson et al (2001) invested in to the idea that emotions, both arousal and Mood effects, can have a substantial effect on cognitive performance. Chabris (1999) first suggested in his Meta analysis of 16 studies related to cognitive performance and Mozart and concluded that the small effect that is there is driven by other neurological factors such as “enjoyment arousal” he claimed this was due to Rauscher, Shaw & Kys(1993) methods which had seen the control conditions (silence, relaxation tape) simply being less arousing than the “music” conditions.

Across the globe various cultures form unique tonal and musical structures. One thing they all have in common is some form of melody, Unyk (1992) Tonality in a piece of music is described as “The organisation of music around sets of pitches of which a central pitch is established by its frequent occurrence and appearance at salient points”, Hallam, Cross, Thaut (2009). It is the melodies tonality which defines a piece of music’s characteristic features. Each culture and musical style draws on a set of melodical intervals which become standard perceptual categories in which the defined tones are expected to occur. Rhythmical intervals follow a similar fashion. The sets of pitches constitute musical scales which the piece of music is usually limited to but do, however, have varying levels of perceptual stability defined within each style. These pitch and rhythm intervals act as cognitive landmarks for the listener. This establishes a perceptual framework for the listener to accommodate to. Krumhansel (1990) As melodies are structures within our experience we should expect there to be schemas for certain types of melodies. These schemas are the result of musical representations that may be generalised across certain environments. When a group of musicians of a social network develop a number of musical concepts and schemas in a certain space of time, then they may be regarded as a “musical culture”, Snyder (2000). It is these schemas that provide a context for the perception and understanding of music across styles. Musical styles and cultures have prevailed across history each taking a particular schema of musical events and entwining them in their society. Each musical culture using the musical elements Rhythm, melody, harmony, and tone colour to create there characteristic musical perspective. The effects of music on spatial temporal reasoning have focussed around the effects of classical music, especially that of Mozart. This has given rise to the perceptive that classically composed musical styles offer a lot to our cognition in terms of positive effect.

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Classical compositions have commonly been associated with the function of emotional expression. It is often believed that the emotional reactions elected by classical pieces were intentional by the composer. Tonality has long been the backbone for classical styles from the 17th century, Etter (2001). The classical style usually adopts combinations of tones that conventionally lead to repose in the piece. Key is usually rooted to maintain these tones and the piece relies on functional harmonies. Beauty and nobility were key expressions fuelled by platonic ideas of good and bad that were also embedded culturally through the churches and Christian ideology where the music was most often embraced. Musical styles and expression arise in most cultures in time. However classical music was limited to the composers who were trained in the arts of tonality, harmony and musical structure to produce finite pieces of art that were refined expressions of creativity bound by rules and constraints that aimed to fulfill the musical consonance and dismiss dissonance in the piece. Over time this style has been placed as an opposite to modern styles of music which have occurred through the need to find new ways of expression through experimental methods. Modern creativity therefore could even be conceptualised as the rejection of tradition. Musicians trying to explore sonic structures that classical styles dared not to take a role in in case of threat to its tonality or to avoid dissonance. Jazz for example is a style which can be improvised around really easily unlike classical compositions and takes pride in its attempts to make you question your expectations in a piece, while on the other hand 21st century electronic styles of music draw upon new technologies which allow completely revolutionary tonal compositions to be synthesized and form an expression that may have been unheard before. Modernist styles therefore can be seen as rejection of the importance of beauty and the expression of noble feeling, Etter(2001). Musicians who work within modern contemporary styles are therefore attempt to manipulate any expression of “worth” drawing upon an infinite set of rules however still subordinated by the general rules of consonance and dissonance. These differences in origin of musical style are important to understand and defend modern music against the “elitists” stance that classical music has been given over other genres. Is there really features that are expression ally more profound in traditional styles than modern ones. And can these differences really surface as having the ability to propel a person’s cognition to function better after classical music than no music.

Although research into the effects of tonality on our cognition is limited there is clear evidence for tonality holding some kind of emotional expression. “One of the primary roles of music is to convey emotion”, Halpern & Reed(2008). We can draw on the paradoxical idea that faster paced tempos with a major key are usually labelled as “happy” by non-musicians, and slow tempo music with a minor key is regarded as “sad”, demonstrating that even without the relevant musical theory being understood we can differentiate the difference between major and minor modes and that each convey different emotional content. Halpern & Reed(2008) They also suggest that differentiating musical Key may not be done with accurate labels by non-musicians however it is clear that non-musicians can differentiate a piece of music by the emotional response that it elicits , such as the “happy” and “sad” labels that are commonly used by non-musicians. Although this study is not looking at Key recognition itself, it is important to understand that Key can have an effect on memory and recognition in musical melody and also conditions us in to expectation within the piece, Cuddy & Lunney(1995). The music contour (upward and downward movement of melodic intervals) which is only maintained by our ability to retain more than one pitch event at a time within our working memory This phenomenon allows listeners to construct the melody around a central pitch which forms cognitive cues that give clue to the hierarchical schematic structure of the pitches within a scale. Within this structure of pitches that are ordered temporally by the rhythm the listener is given memory aids triggered by specific pitches. Snyder (2000) this is further evidence that supports the idea of music having a real time effect on events taking place in the brain.

The emotional impression music leaves on the listener is an important factor in understanding why people engage with music. Although there is no settled definition of emotions, it is mutually agreed that emotions can be “Described as brief (lasting minutes to a few hours) but intense responses to potentially important events or changes in the external or internal environment that involve a certain sub- components” these sub components can include appraisals, subjective feelings physiological responses, expressions , regulations and action tendencies. However the debate lies in conceptualising the synchronisation of these components, Juslin (2009). Cognitive scientists believe that this “emotional” reaction to our immediate environment is “expressed” through intentional cues which the listener cognitively recognises (“perceives) as an emotion. An emotivist’s approach dismisses any cognition being involved and suggests the effect is caused by the piece electing the “feeling” of emotion for an individual, Peretz(2007), these divisions over the emotional response to music are important. Music may either be induced, or it may be perceived. The implications to research lie in the fact that the nature of emotions perceived in music may be different from those induced by music. The mechanisms that underlie these responses may also be very different. Therefore, the different levels of emotional awareness that exist should be taken into account when evaluating models of musical emotions. Research has shown that skin conductance rates are greater during music conditions compared to silence, Shaw & Bodner(1999). In the same experiment it was found that genre and tempo also have a significant effect together in electing astronomical arousal measured through skin conductance rates. Classical music at a fast tempo as well as rock music at a slow tempo induced the greatest arousal. This suggests that different musical styles may be the basis of specific emotional responses, Carpentier & Potter(2007) more specifically it is found that fast tempo and a major key have a significantly greater effect on spatial temporal performance compared to slower tempos in a minor key, Husain, Thompson, & Shellenberg( 2001) the distinction between mood and arousal separates long lasting moods which can have a direct effect on our cognition with arousal responses which are direct physiological emotional response’s. EEG correlates have also supported this distinction. These cases are important in understanding the causality involved with the positive effects that music can produce on our cognition. With an accurate understanding of the emotional link to certain keys, it allows the Mozart effect to be understood from both the cognitive explanations (i.e. Mountcastle’s theories) as well as emotivist theories which can therefore be used in collaboration to give a multidimensional view of the complex interaction of music on our cognition. A number of studies have made the connection between mood and arousal in the positive effects on tasks that relied on cognitive ability, Thompson, (2001), “ several studies have indicated that very high or low levels of anxiety or arousal inhibit performance on cognitive tasks, whereas moderate levels facilitate performance, Sittiprapapor (2010) along with this evidence negative moods and boredom are found to show deficit in cognitive performance and learning, Koester & Farley (1982) while positive moods and arousal are found to lead to improvements in performance on cognitive and problem solving tasks, Ashby, Isen & Turken (1999). In the light of current debate these examples do raise questions over the differentiation between moods and emotions. Consideration of these theoretical positions highlights how our current cognitive state of being has some dictatorship over our cognitive performance. The mood/arousal hypothesis is related to Mozart effect by Hetland and Thompson paper who suggest that the Mozart effect is the result of mood and arousal factors which interact to increase spatial temporal task performance. Hetland and Thompson(????). when describing a piece of music as happy or sad it must be taken into account that they are denoting a specific emotional “state” onto the piece. These conclusions are based on respective structural musical parameters which vary in amount and degree. It is the production of perception of emotion in music which can dictate its subject awareness to the listener and this is what results in the given arousal that a piece of music may elicit in a person.

The aim of this study is to confirm or not that the Mozart effect as traditionally defined is valid and to extend this to an understanding of the role of key in that effect as well as whether the effect occurs in contemporary as well as classic musical styles. Due to limitations brought on by the nature of this undergraduate piece of research it was impossible to explore all other aspects of musical style outside of classical music. Rideout et al (1998) suggest contemporary styles had a similar effect to classical styles. Rock music has been observed by ,Flohr (1995) and to avail no effect was found however classical music once again proved to be a more salient enhancer of spatial temporal reasoning. And repetitive styles such as electro were found to have no power in increasing spatial temporal reasoning ,Rauscher et al (1005).Therefore it begins to raise the question… if there is any effect at all. Is it limited to classical styles alone. The Benefits of refining the scope of this effect could have implications within the educational system for children, as well as reaching in to music therapy to possibly open the window to specific musical structures and designs that can help those who’s spatial temporal reasoning is suffers from deficit. In the past efforts have been made to incorporate the findings of the original Raushcer, Shaw & Ky study however they were misguided by misinterpretation of the original findings and misguiding media coverage. To represent the classical traditional styles two compositions by Mozart were used – a piece in major and a piece in minor. To represent the modern contemporary genres to be compared to the classical style were jazz, and hip hop. These two modern contemporary styles were chosen as their cultural roots lie in more African/African American roots that classical music has very little influence from. Jazz(Major)….like classical music still has complex arrangements with many instruments however is music that is made to dance to, the hip-hop(minor) track represents one of the most prominent music styles of the youth culture across the globe currently, its syncopated rhythms and heavy focus on rhythm is a strong contrast from the dynamic melodies of classical styles. It was hypothesised that for this particular study

  1. There will a significant effect of listening to music, irrespective of style, on subsequent spatial-temporal reasoning
  2. The effect of listening to contemporary, popular (non-classical) music will be as great as that of traditional classical music (because the former still involves to the same degree arousal as well as spatio-temporal structures)
  3. Music in a major key will have greater effect of ST reasoning than music in a minor key

These assumptions are guided by previous insights in to the effects of music on spatial reasoning. Is there an involvement of an emotional aspect to the Mozart effect and are modern musical styles also able to account for this phenomenom.. 60 students from the South East of England all completed 8 spatial temporal reasoning tasks set out by the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale, were then subject to ten minutes of music (modern contemporary styles and classical) in a major or minor key and a no music exposure condition. Participants were then tested again on 8 different sets from the spatial temporal reasoning sets in the Stanford-Binet.


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