We spend so many of our days at work, and so much of our workdays in front of a screen, that music has become indispensable in keeping us happy, motivated, and productive.
But are all songs made the same? Or are there perfect tracks for certain tasks?
Why We’re Addicted to Music
I’m sure you don’t need a scientist to tell you how music can help you get through a work day.
We turn to our favorite songs in times of need: when we’re feeling low and need a pick-me-up, or when we’re happy and want to keep the flow going.
As neuroscientist and musician Jamshed Bharucha discovered, there’s something primal about why we love music. Bharucha found that creative domains such as music allow humans to connect in a synchronized way, helping us develop a group identity and become more likely to work together.
A recent study of preschoolers furthered this idea. The study paired children together in sets of two with one group told to sing a song together, while the others just walked (or crawled) around together. The pairs were then given tubes full of marbles that were designed to empty once the children started playing with them.
Looking at the behavior of the pairs, the researchers found that those children who sang together were more cooperative in helping to clean up the marbles and concluded that music may have evolved as a way of fostering a sense of community and developing immediate empathetic concern.
But our love of music isn’t just cultural. When you listen to your favorite tracks, a part of your brain called the nucleus accumbent activates, triggering a release of the ‘motivation and pleasure chemical’ dopamine, which lives in a group of neurons in your brain called the Ventral Tegmental Area.
Dopamine is the same chemical that gets released when you eat your favorite food or when you get a new follower on Twitter, causing you to want more (and more, and more).
Yet, just like after your first 100 or so followers (or your 1000th pizza), there is a law of diminishing returns. When you first hear a new song that you love, more dopamine is released and you get more excited than if you were to listen to one of your old favorites. (continue reading)