Neuroscience News highlights interesting effects of music on the human brain as seen through mapping
This Neuroscience News article describes recent findings published in PNAS studying the reactions of people from different cultures to various genres of music. Participants from the United States and China were recruited to listen to a collection of audio clips and were asked to rate the music based on a category of potential emotions and had to include the positive or negative reaction they had as well as their level of arousal. The data from the study allowed scientists to create an interactive audio map where people can hover over any of the thousands of music snippets and see if their reaction matches that of others.
The author of this article accurately describes the research methods used in the study and clearly states what is known, remaining neutral throughout. They also include the potential applications of this research, whether it be informing psychiatric therapies or adding to Spotify’s algorithms in response to their users’ taste in music. In addition, the article does not use any unexplained jargon; terms that could be difficult to understand in the context of the study are clearly defined, such as “valence” describing the positive or negative value of a song. This makes the findings of the original study very accessible to the general public.
The area in which this article is lacking is accessibility. There is no author listed, which makes finding other publications by the same author or uncovering a potential conflict of interest impossible. Furthermore, the original research paper is closed access, which makes it difficult to confirm the accuracy of the article’s reporting on this study.
Published this past January, the author provides an exceptional summary of the study design and practical implications from an article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In the study, researchers compiled data in an attempt to categorize the emotional response a general population has to different genres of music. The author describes in great length the sampling design in which “more than 2500 people in the United States and China were recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk’s crowdsourcing platform. Through this voluntary response sample, scientists in the study mapped the music samples according to the 13 key emotions they targeted and coordinated each response to a letter that was indicative of each participant’s emotional response.
While this summary is highly informative of the study in itself, there is little detail regarding both what is already known and what is unknown in this field. This may hinder readers that have little to no prior experience on this topic in their understanding of the article content.
The author does well to report on the applications of these research findings adding, for a lack of a better term, an increased impact factor (not to be confused with the impact factor computed through the scientometric index that is used to estimate the credibility of a journal). The inclusion of this section allows readers to directly understand the importance of these scientific findings.
The author continues their review addressing the fallacy that has been acknowledged to mitigate any confusion of correlation versus correlation. That is, they describe an understanding that “some of these associations may be based on the context in which the study participants had previously heard a certain piece of music…”. This subsequently improves the credibility of the review and is an accurate justification of any uncertainty that may arise through confounding results.
It would be worth mentioning that an author is not mentioned, and, in their place, the academic institution UC Berkley is sourced. As a result, a major setback of this review is that readers cannot independently validate the credibility of this author. Additionally, it should be noted that the referenced research is paywalled such that a general audience lacks access to the article – thereby, creating another grey area if readers were looking for more insight into, and validation of, the claims made by the author in this review.
In summary, this review provides a catchy and representative title as well as a clean and concise synopsis of the study itself; however, there are several minor flaws that could improve the credibility and accessibility of this author’s review.
The views expressed by the reviewers for this article are not endorsed or shared by SciFeye. The interpretation of the review of the news story using the SciFeye Index was done independently by two SciFeye reviewers. We encourage you to conduct your own evaluation of the accuracy and quality of the news story using the Index.