ICMPC 12 Day 1: First morning session

The first morning session for ICMPC 12 featured a new idea for presentation for me; everyone here who has a poster gets a 5 minute oral presentation to summarise and advertise their poster.

This is a really nice idea for a couple of reasons: 1) you get a snapshot of lots of different work which can be hard to do with a traditional poster session as it is easy to get caught up and involved with one poster at the expense of others; 2) it is great experience of presenting. But as we shall see, it does rather leave you with information overload!

Because there are so many presentations I do not have a great deal of in-depth information for you but instead do my best to summarise the main methods and findings. That will be the pattern for my summaries of the poster sessions – breadth rather than depth. But with any luck there are or will soon be papers from these authors that you can seek out if you wish to known more.

So, on to the first session where I did my best to move between two of the five parallel sessions: ‘Emotion and communication’ and ‘Attention and memory’. I figured it would be good to try to switch, as they both contained interesting talks and, more importantly, the rooms for these sessions were next to each other!

First was Thomas Schafer who discussed how intense musical experiences (IMEs) can influence people’s way of life. He used an interview based approach and a grounded theory analysis. Some of his interesting findings were that IMEs are characterised by altered states of consciousness and often left people with a strong desire to achieve harmony in their everyday life. In many cases people experienced ‘spiritual’ states during IMEs and derived aspects of their belief system, values and everyday engagement from these experiences.

The next speaker in this section was Alex Lamont who discussed her work looking into IMEs during musical performance. Alex discussed this paper during a recent visit to Goldsmiths and you can see a great summary of this work in a recent blog from our Music, Mind and Brain masters students.

I then ran across to the Memory session to check out a paper from on the way that music can interfere with verbal memory (one of my favourite topics). Jack Birchfield had some new data based on the changing state hypothesis which comes from verbal memory literature and states that the amount of interference caused by a secondary auditory stream will be proportional to the extent that it changes in state (i.e. has difference items). In his experiment he found that the greatest disruption to verbal memory performance was caused by increased rhythmic complexity and not other features of the music such as tonality.

There followed another talk in a similar vein by Thomas Ting who looked at whether musical accents could improve memory for concurrently read words, in the same way as a visual accenting (e.g. underlining or highlighting) can improve memory. Contrary to expectations (love it when that happens!) the authors found that strong musical accents impaired memory – probably because they compete too strongly for attention and limited processing resources. Overall the message was that there is a benefit to be gained from musical encoding with verbal materials, but you have to be careful not to go too far.

I then had a little break before moving back to the Emotion session for the final two presentations. The first was by Suvi Saarikallio who investigated how emotional recognition and reaction to music was related to problem behaviours and empathy in adolescents. Her group found an expected but still interesting relationship whereby higher problem behaviours and lower socio-emotional competence were associated with lower emotional reactions to music and perceptual biases.

Finally, I heard about a nice study by Yuko Morimoto into how familiarly with a piece influences boredom and pleasure. In this study 48 participants listened to a Mozart piece in a variety of contexts and performance scenarios. Overall, both the structure of the piece and the characteristics of the performance influenced judgements of liking and boredom, and that the patterns nicely mirrored the typical U-shaped patterns of an initial boost in liking and interest followed by a rise in boredom over time.

All that in 40 minutes!! It was a lot of information so I decided to be a little more sparing on my brain in the next session and to visit just 4 presentations. More of these in the next blog….