Ep 229: What Makes a Song Popular? How We Detect Melody

Why Are Some Tunes So Popular?

What makes some songs so popular? Guess what – psychologists actually know a lot of the answers. In this episode we’ll listen to excerpts from Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, as well as Noisestorm’s Ignite, Adele’s Someone Like You, the Enterprise Theme from Star Trek, and even two pieces of music from the motion picture Koyaanisqatsi. We’ll especially deconstruct “Hallelujah” to figure out why it is such a popular song. Many thanks to musician extraordinaire – Steve Kessler.

Key Points

  • Humans are pattern seekers (see this episode on Gestalt Principles of Perception and we seek patterns in what we see and what we hear
  • The Mere Exposure effect: if you hear anything enough times (or meet anyone enough times), they “grow on you”, i.e., liking increases with familiarity)
  • We find repetition in music across cultures
  • One segment of a song serves as a cue to the next sebment, allowing us to know what’s coming next (we even come to predict what what song will come next if we listen to the same sequence of songs over and over again)
  • “Repetition invites us into music as participants” – watch the video below which summarizes Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis’ research
  • The Psychology of Music: The Role of Expectations and Minor Chords

Music Featured in this Episode


Ep 173: An Interactive Neuron and Map Using ThingLink

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Every once in a while a really cool tool comes along and I like to show everyone the fun I had with it. In this video episode I show how I easily made an interactive image of a neuron and an interactive map containing videos and locations for some of the major studies in psychology. Do you know where, for example, “Bobo doll” study was done? How about the spot where “Marion Keech” received her message from the alien race called the “Clarion” which revealed the inner workings of cognitive dissonance? Find out how to make your own fun and easy interactive image in this episode of The Psych Files.
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Ep 171 Psych Files Brief #5: The Allure of Red Dresses, Telling Jokes to Babies, and What a President Looks Like

A whole bunch of fascinating studies in this episode of The Psych Files! I cover the “Red Dress Effect”, what exactly we’re looking for in the facial characteristics of our leaders, how dark rooms might make you more likely to cheat, and how “contagious yawning” really works. Join me on this jaunt down some of the recent and fun research coming out of the fascinating field of psychology.
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Ep 163: Psych Files Brief #4: Animals Smiling, Yogurt De-Stressing, and the Psychology of Success

Do animals smile? Do they feel emotions and if so how many kinds of feelings do they share with us? In this episode we also take a look at the probiotics in yogurt – how do they affect your thinking and do they might help protect you from stress. It turns out that these probiotics increase the production of the neurotransmitter GABA which helps quiet down your neurons. I also talk about the work of female psychologists: Carol Dweck on the psychology of success, and and a tribute to Evelyn Hooker whose research helped in removing homosexuality from the DSM in 1973.
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Episode 138: Zombies – 6 Reasons Why We Are So Fascinated By Them

Zombie Fascination eBook

Image of zombiesAfraid of zombies? Heard about the coming zombie apocalypse? Have you watched the TV show The Walking Dead or ever seen a movie about Zombies (perhaps Zombieland or Dawn of the Dead)?

Zombie Fascination
What is so fascinating about the undead? Why do many of us get a strange pleasure out of seeing a zombie get killed? In this episode I explore that strange part of ourselves which seems to enjoy watching the undead get really dead.

The Psychology of Zombies eBook!

Looking for a fun way to enjoy learning more about psychology? Then purchase my ebook: Zombie Psychology. In this 22-page PDF, I explore:

  • how Sigmund and Anna Freud‘s ideas apply to zombies (the Death Instinct and Ego Defense Mechanisms)
  • the connection between zombies and Terror Management theory
  • Just World belief and zombies
  • I address the explanation that only the more primitive parts of the brain are active in a zombie. Is this possible? Find out in the ebook and learn a little about the brain along the way.

Only $1.99!

Zombie Fascination eBook

Only $1.99!

Zombie Fascination

  • Film-goers have always loved a good scare, and a shambling collection of neuron-challenged corpses make a pretty terrifying story. And if my zombie-obsessed 14-year-old son is a representative sample, blowing the undead away with heavy weaponry has a solid adolescent demographic appeal. But there’s no question, at least in my mind, that zombies (and Godzilla) are an allegorical representation of our fear that science and the technologies it spawn will lead to our destruction. – James Turner, Forbes Magazine article

  • People are fascinated by phenomena such as ESP, psychokinesis, communicating with the dead, ghosts, vampires, and zombies in part because [they] allow for the possibility of some essence or aspect of us surviving beyond death. One could speculate that these forms of the supernatural are growing in popularity, along with their positive counterparts, superheroes, because of lessened faith in traditional religious conceptions of the supernatural…

    Zombies also deny the finality of death – here are these beings who are functioning after they have died. It’s not a pretty afterlife, but if this is possible, better forms may also be out there.

    …because zombies are “already dead” we can be guilt free and gleefully watch them killed in every way possible no matter how grisly, vicariously aggressing against this substitute source of our fears with complete abandon.”

    Episode 132: Opera on the Brain

    What part of your brain is lighting up when you’re singing? In this episode I take a look at a neat new study that involved having singers lie down in an MRI while their brains were scanned. Take a look at how your cerebellum, your parietal lobe, your somatosentory cortex and your amygdala are all involved in your ability to sing. I’ll also look at how mental rehearsal can positively affect how well you perform a task.
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    Episode 128: Do Brain Training Games Work?

    Do Brain Training Games Work?
    Do Brain Training Games Work?

    Do Brain Training Games Work?

    You’ve probably heard about these Brain Training games. While there is some evidence that such games can have positive effects (Brain training for babies actually works (short term, at least), do they really help you to keep your mind sharp? Will they prevent cognitive decline as you get older or will they slow the effects of alzheimer’s disease? In this episode I review some recent studies on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of these popular games.

    Brain Games Research

    Episode 127 (video): Phrenology: Maybe They Were On To Something

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    Everyone can picture one of those phrenology heads with personality traits drawn into different sections of the cranium (you’ll find a bunch of them on this phrenology site). Was there anything to that? Well, not exactly. However, with the use of MRI scans researchers today may have located about where certain personality traits lie in your brain. Travel with me into a 3D brain and let’s find out where your personality may lie.

    The Big Five Personality Traits

    One of the most popular theories of personality is the so-called Big Five personality traits. Here is a list of those traits along with what we know as to where they may reside in your brain.

    • Openness – dorsolateral PFC, anterior PFC, anterior parietal cortex (research was inconclusive on this personality factor)
    • Conscientiousness – Lateral Profrontal Cortex
    • Extraversion – Orbitofrontal Cortex, Nucleus Accumbens, Amygdala
    • Agreeableness – superior temporal sulcus, posterior cingulate cortex
    • Neuroticism – Medial prefrontal cortex, Amygdala, Hippocampus

    Resources

    Episode 126 (video): SuperNormal Stimuli: Is This Why We’re Overweight?

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    There are many reasons why it is difficult to lose weight, but have you considered how supernormal stimuli might be one of them?  In this episode I discuss some of the ideas in the books Waistland and Supernormal Stimuli by Dierdre Barrett.  Is it possible that the old saying Everything in Moderation might just be wrong?  And will Small Changes really help you to get in shape or are radical changes really the way to go?

    Episode 121: Top 10 Psychology Apps for the iPad, iPhone, & iPod

    Best Psychology Apps on the iPad/iPhone
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    I show you 10 of what I consider to be the best psychology apps in the app store. There are a lot of psychology apps and many are not so good, but in this episode I pick out what I consider to be credible therapy apps, excellent mind mapping tools, relaxation apps, and some of the best 3 dimensional ways to look at the brain.

    Here are three apps created, maintained and constantly updated by me – Michael A. Britt, Ph.D.: