So, Why Do People Like Music?

A paper was released recently explaining why people love music so much. A cross of neuroscience and musicology, the paper is extremely interesting in its explanation of how the human mind works during the listening experience, and why the mind’s reaction to music has built the art form up to the pedestal it rests on today, as a multi-billon dollar industry, peppered with some of the people who many of us respect more then anyone else in the world. So why is it that music has reached such an important and revered status in society?

Music is all about anticipation, we hear a pattern laid out before us, and expect to hear the pattern repeated. This delves into mathematics as well, since all patterns in music are deeply rooted in mathematics. Anyway, once we hear a pattern, our brain attaches to it and expects to hear it again. When the brain is surprised by changes in the pattern of music, it changes to a state of anticipation. Anticipation promotes the release of dopamine, and studied found that the highest level of brain activity actually happens 15 seconds before the climax of a song, when anticipation as at its most frenzied and dopamine levels rise. Anticipation causes the same chemical response in the brain as eating food, or snorting a line of cocaine, just in different levels. Not exactly the same obviously, but all three are heavily contingent on the release of dopamine.

Anyway I have three articles on the subject for anyone who is interested to check out. First is the original paper, by Valorie N Salimpoor, Mitchel Benovoy, Kevin Larcher, Alain Dagher & Robert J Zatorre. The paper can be found here, on

Second, there is the article that was written by Jonah Lehrer about the study and published in This explanation is much easier to understand, and delves pretty deep into the science aspect while still speaking in a language most people can understand. This analysis of the study can be found here.

Finally, there is a post about it on , where I discovered the study. The post was written by Vanessa Wheeler, a publicist for artists like Chiddy Bang and Big Boi. Her description is the shortest, simplest and easiest to digest of the three articles.

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