Category Archives: Music & Consumer Behaviour

Music and gambling

Hello Dear Reader !!

No, I have not fallen off the edge of the Earth. I was busy moving back to the UK, starting my new job at Sheffield, meeting many lovely new people and finding my feet back ‘up north’ in York again.

I feel settled now and, like all in academia, am getting on with the new year.

2253052296_efc80ddf43_zI hope you are well, Dear Reader. I promise I thought of you often since last we spoke. To make up for my absence in the last few weeks the blog has had a thorough clean. The job/scholarship and conference pages are now up to date (lots of exciting meetings in 2015 so far) and all your kind comments have been answered. I hope you find these changes useful.

Now, back to our usual fun of new findings in music psychology!

This week I spied a paper on the role of music in gambling behaviour. This peaked my interest as it is a subject that some of our students at Sheffield study, so I thought I would give it a read, to better relate to their work.

The paper is by a Norwegian group headed by Rune Mentzoni and can be downloaded for free by clicking on this link. 

2p_coins_on_pusher_at_Butlins,_Minehead_2009Now – I am not a gambler by nature, Dear Reader. To my knowledge, other than the 2p machines on Scarborough sea front (see image if you are not familiar) or the occasional National Lottery flutter I have only gambled once in my life. I joined a work team bet on the Grand National horse race. To my shock I won. I decided to buy my colleagues a drink and retire while ahead.

For those who do encounter gambling situations on a more regular basis, what is the impact of the music on them? And, interestingly, how might an understanding of the effects of music on gambling help clinical approaches to problem behaviours such as addiction?

There has been interest in the role of music on gambling behaviour for at least the last century. Previous studies have produced mixed results. In one case the presence of music helped  gamblers better monitor their behaviour and passage of time (poorer memory for actions was observed in the absence of music). In another couple of studies faster tempo music was associated with faster betting behaviours, but not higher risk taking.

2261538585_2356761c29_bIn the new paper ‘a nonclinical sample of 101 students (72 females) played a computerized gambling task in which either a high-tempo or a low-tempo musical soundtrack was present’.  The idea was to include music as part of the game, rather than using background music. This is a more realistic experience of many gambling situations such as slot machines (“one-armed bandits” my Grandmother used to call them).

Faster reaction times and bet making were expected. The authors also asked people about their enjoyment of the game. Participants completed a standardised gambling scale before the task to assess any pre-existing problem behaviours.

Method: The game, called “Superjack” , was realised in Eprime 2. To paraphrase the paper, the task was to select one of four cards by pressing one of four keys on a standard keyboard. Each trial (bet) cost NOK 3 ($0.50), and a start-up credit of NOK 50 ($9) was provided.

Whist-type_trickParticipants were told the following: If the selected card turned out to be a Queen, King or Ace a small win of NOK 3 ($0.50) would be obtained. A Jack of any suit would yield a win of NOK 20 ($3.50). A Joker would win NOK 100 ($18). A SuperJack (special card) would win NOK 250 ($44.50), and two consecutive SuperJacks would win NOK 850 ($151). Any other card resulted in no win on that trial.

Reaction times were measured as were the number and amount of bets placed. Game evaluation was rated by participants at the end.

Results: Participants in the slow music tempo group placed more bets compared to participants in the fast tempo group. This finding is in line with research in other public arenas, such as restaurants, where people tend to spend more time and money in establishments with slower tempo music.

Participants who heard the fast soundtrack had faster reaction times compared to participants in the slow game music condition.

In terms of overall enjoyment there was no effect of musical condition.

Conclusions: Overall it appears that slow music prolongs gambling behaviour compared to fast music – in the latter condition people are much quicker to bet (and in most cases run out of money). Neither of these responses seem linked to a person’s liking of the task or the music.

The_CardsharpsThe authors argue that the paper underlies the importance of learning and employing self-awareness and self-monitoring strategies when gambling, as these can potentially be modified by music: And the importance of knowing environmental impacts. It remains an open question whether the music still effects people once they are made aware of its presence and possible impact (that would be an interesting follow-up).

So there you go, a simple little paper for my return to the blog, but one that I hope opens questions and thoughts about useful clinical applications.

Dear Reader, I wish you a pleasant weekend and week ahead.

SMPC Day 4: Session 1 (Beyond the Concert Hall)

So we come to the final blog for SMPC. The final day also featured the public lecture by Dan Levitin but sadly I was not able to attend this due to the conflict with my flight time. If anyone would like to write about this for the blog then just let me know and I would be happy to put it up for everyone.

torontoSunday was as sunny and pleasant as most of the other days we spent in Toronto and Andrea Halpern and I sat outside for our final breakfast in the hotel after checking out. We then wandered towards the conference for the 8.40am start (yes, on a Sunday…) and I spent the first session in an intriguingly titled session ‘Beyond the Concert Hall’.

The first speaker was John Ashley Burgoyne (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) who has been working with Henkjan Honing on a project that he called ‘Hooked’. The project is all about trying to work out what parts of a song make them most memorable , which these authors equate to an idea of “catchiness”.

iphonemusicJohn and his team have designed a musical game that will soon be available on i-platforms, such as iPhones and iPads. The game presents popular songs and asks people if they know them. If they say ‘no’, then another song is presented. If they say ‘yes’ then they are presented with a snippet of the song that goes blank after a few seconds and then re-enters again at either the right or wrong place.

Players have to continue singing the song in their head in the blank time and then make a decision as to whether the musical continuation is synced correctly or not.

So far John and his team have piloted with 26 people using 160 songs. They have found some interesting patterns in the data relating to start time of the snippet, with the task apparently being harder when the snippet starts later in the song.

They also found that people are not particularly good at judging what is catchy, if you compare their estimates of catchiness in songs to their performance on the task. Much more interesting data will follow from this project I am sure.

Jimi_hendryx_experience_1968The second talk was Nat Condit-Schuktz (Univeristy of Ohio State, USA) who has been working with David Huron on the question of intelligibility in song lyrics. Nat is interested in how lyrics and music combine together to contribute to the emotional, social and cultural aspects of a song. But do listeners always pay attention to lyrics? Do they always get them right?

Of course we know that they don’t always need to understand lyrics in order to enjoy vocal music, otherwise English speakers like me could not enjoy Italian and German operas. There is also a wonderful tradition of people mishearing the lyrics to songs (see for fun examples).

Listen_to_the_Music_Wallpaper_by_Sugargrl14Studies of architectural acoustics ave suggested that up to 26.3% of song lyrics might be misheard in a single performance. Nat was interested in how genres differ in their success at accurately communicating lyrical content.

In his study Nat compared intelligibility of lyrics on 12 different genres selected from

He selected 20 songs from each that contained a suitable phrase (randomly selected) for testing. There turned out to be quite significant variance in the lyric identification success. Classical (in English before you ask) was the worse with less than 50% correct. Also poor were Rock/Pop and Avante Garde which were just under 70%. The best three genres were Theatre, Country and Jazz, with over 90% correct.

imagesTurns out that people who claim that they like to attend to lyrics in their normal listening life did worse overall on the task, which is quite a fun contradiction.

But people who say lyrics are important and who have more singing experience were better overall which is probably not surprising.

This work lays the groundwork for future studies of what makes lyrics more or less intelligible in live and recorded music including pitch, reverb and aspects of mixing.

After this talk I had to skip out for a bathroom break and I got caught in an interesting conversation so I am afraid I missed the talk by Richard Hass (Rowan University, USA) on ‘The Chorus effect’ though I gather that this was an interesting study of data originally gathered by Carol Krumhansl as part of her ‘Plink’ studies of musical memory, and investigated the impact of tonal complexity on people’s memory for songs.

The last talk was by Arielle Bonneville-Roussy (University of Cambridge, UK) who has been working on a study of how perceived and objective musical attributes impact on musical taste.

CD_collectionArielle has been using online testing and sought to explore the variance in musical taste that has been left unexplained by many studies of personality, political leanings, and general attributes such as gender, age and education  – how much variance in taste is left to explain? Only about 80%! 80% we don’t know why people like the things that they like.

Her study relies on extracting objective musical attributes from songs and comparing these to people’s perceived characteristics.

In two studies Arielle asked people to report on their perceptions of musical attributes as well as their liking. She used stepwise multiple regression to show that objective attributes of the music accounted for between 29% and 67% of the variance in music taste. In turn perceived attributes accounted for about 1/3 of the variance.

Overall, Arielle found that musical taste is largely determined by the characteristics of the music itself rather than the listener, and any of their particular traits, ideas or preferences. It’s all about the music!

-WHEN_IN_DOUBT_-_LIGHTS_OUT-_-_NARA_-_516141At the end of this session I sat alone in the lecture room putting up SMPC blog 6 for you, dear reader (this is SMPC blog 11, by the way). To my slight shock but great amusement the room lights went out after about 10 minutes, plunging my into bemused darkness. I stumbled around looking for the light and managed to walk into the door. I am sure that it would be really funny to watch back this scene of physical comedy. In the end I managed to find the light and put up the blog by the time the final session started.



Sadly, I am not able to report on the very last session of SMPC as my notes for it were lost somewhere between Toronto and London.

SMPC was a hugely busy, dynamic and impressive conference that contained a wealth of data from a number of fields aligned to music psychology. I have only been able to provide a small sample of that data for you in these blogs, the things I was able to see myself, but I hope you found the reports interesting and inspiring.

The SMPC website is still up and running so you can download the abstracts and read more on the latest developments in music psychology by clicking on this link.

Kapellbrucke_in_LucerneI may go a little quite for a time now as I am moving to Switzerland in a few days to take up my new job as Visiting Professor for Performance Science at the Hochschule Luzern. I can’t wait to get started and to tell you, dear reader, all about my adventures and discoveries once I am settled. Wish me luck!