Researchers find changes occur in the brain while buying music
Washington D.C, Jun 28: What happens in the brain when purchasing music? A team of researchers has investigated this question.
As soon as social considerations also play a part in economic decisions, our brain seems to switch to a different processing mode, according to the University of Bonn study.
In it the participants were able to purchase pieces of music but could themselves set the price to be paid. During the process, the researchers recorded the brain activity of the participants
The participating scientists at the University of Bonn and the University of Ulm invited a total of 25 participants to an experiment in a brain scanner. The subjects first listened to a 30-second clip from a piece of music. They were then to decide whether they wanted to buy the associated album or not.
In some cases the test persons were free to decide how much they wanted to pay for the album. Under this “pay-what-you-want” condition, they were able to keep the songs regardless of the amount paid, no matter what. In other cases, the scientists had set a fixed price, they amount of which was unknown to the participants. The participants could also suggest a monetary amount but did not know that they could only get the album, if their suggestion was over the price set. During the process the researchers recorded brain activity.
“In the fixed price scenario, we found activation patterns that met our expectations exactly”, explained Dr Sebastian Markett, adding “As soon as they listened to the music clip, the participants showed activity in certain brain structures that are part of the so-called reward system. The better they liked the piece, the stronger the activation – and the higher then the amount they bid for the album.” In this case, therefore, the music enjoyment dictated the bid.
It was quite different, when, after listening to the piece, the participants heard that they could determine the price themselves. In these cases, the strength of activation did not permit a direct conclusion about the amount that the participants would later pay. Instead, in them, a region of the brain became highly activated that had been completely unremarkable under the fixed price conditions: the so-called lingual gyrus.
“When our participants read that they themselves could choose the price for the piece just heard, their lingual gyrus became active,” said Waskow. “This activation may have caused their brain to switch to another mode: Now, in making the decision, no longer just economic and emotional considerations but also social considerations, such as the fairness concept, were considered.” This explanation is still just a hypothesis. However, the scientists hope to firm up their conclusions in further studies with more test participants.
The work will soon appear in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.