psychology

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The effects of musical listening in cerebral processing

The Stoop task is used in cognitive psychology to understand how behaviors interact and this test is typically used as a benchmark measure of attention. The task is for participants to identify the character color of stimulus words that are themselves colors. Stroop test participants on average experience difficulty inhibiting an impulsive urge to name the “word-as-read”, rather than the character color. The result of this font/color interference is marked as having longer response times for color words than, for example, nonsense syllables. MacLeod (1991)

The emotional Stroop test is related to the standard Stroop effect, the emotional Stroop test works by studying the response time a participant to name colors of negative or depressing, emotional words. For example, depressed participants would be slow to articulate the color of depressing words rather than non-depressing words. Non-clinical subjects have also been shown to name the color of an emotional word (e.g., "war", "cancer", "kill") slower than naming the color of a neutral word (e.g., "clock", "lift", "windy") (Gotlib & McCann, 1984). Although the emotional Stroop test and the classic Stroop effect elicit similar behavioral outcomes (a slowing in response times to colored words), these tests engage different mechanisms of interference (McKenna & Sharma, 2004). The classic Stroop test produces an inconsistency between a contrasting color and word (the word ‘GREEN’ in font color blue). However, emotional Stroop encompasses only emotional and unbiased words; color does not influence slowing due to the fact that

it does not disagree with word meaning. For instance, studies show the same effects of slow down for emotional words even if all the words are black. Consequently, the emotional Stroop does not involve a result of variance between a word meaning and the color of the text, but relatively appear to capture attention and decrease the response time due to the emotional significance of the word for the participant. The emotional Stroop test has been widely used in clinical settings by using emotional words related to a particular individual's area of concern, such as drug-related words for someone who is an addict, or words linking a particular phobia for someone with increased anxiety disorders. Both the classic and the emotional Stroop tests, however, involve the need to suppress responses to distracting word information, while selectively maintaining attention on the color of the word to complete the task. (Compton et al, 2003).

Attentional bias for threat is viewed as a central mechanism responsible for the

emotional Stroop effect (Ruiter & Brosschot, 1994) and is similarly implicated

in the pronounced hypervigilance characteristic of anxiety disorders, notably post

traumatic stress. It is even claimed that the emotional Stroop can be viewed as a

unique, objective index of psychopathology (e.g., McNally, English, & Lipke, 1993).

Furthermore, in recent years, a growing body of evidence indicates that music may have particular value as a means to ameliorate anxiety among medical patients (e.g., Evans, 2002).

4.

Method

PARTICIPANTS

Six participants of mean age 37.8 years (SD = 15.9 years; range 18–60 years of age)

participated in the study. The selection procedure was opportunistic, based within

a university campus. The sample included 3 females and 3 males, all of which WHOM?

were university undergraduates and doctoral students.

DID Ss DO THE DIFFERENT CONDITIONS IN DIFFERENT ORDERS? HOW WERE THEY ASSIGNED TO ORDERS?

MATERIALS

Originally, two lists were made consisting predominantly of either 20 threatening or 20 neutral words printed in five ink colors, each occurring 4 times. Two alternate, corresponding lists were then made by randomly shifting the placement of the letters. All of the words were displayed in all capital letters, on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper, arranged in two vertical columns of ten words. A digital stopwatch was used to record the time required to respond to each word list in its entirety. Two tracks of music were chosen to play in the background at required times in the study. The short music pieces were intentionally created to avoid overt suggestion of any particular musical type. Subjects were able to personally select the volume to their comfort level prior to the beginning of the experimental procedure.

5.

Procedure

A repeated procedures design was used in which each subject completed a color-naming of words task under four conditions, shown in a randomized order using a random card picking system. The conditions used: (1) processing 20 threatening words accompanied by silence; (2) processing 20 neutral words accompanied by silence; (3) processing 20 threatening words accompanied by music; (4) processing 20 neutral words accompanied by music. Before their first trial, subjects were asked to self-select the volume of the music to fit their comfort level. Instructions were given regarding what was required, i.e., to name the color of the print; to progress vertically down the columns; to return to the top of the adjacent column when the end of each was reached. A digital stopwatch was started as each participant named the color of the first word, and then stopped upon completion of the final item. The experimenter was blind as to which of the two audio tracks on the supplied CD contained silence or music.

6.

Results

The results proved USE A MILDER WORD LIKE “SHOWED” that presenting the threatening word stimuli with silence yielded the greatest mean response time of 29.3 s (SD = 5.6 s). Neutral word color processing tended to be faster and resulted in corresponding mean response times of 22.1 s (SD = 4.6 s) and 23.1 s (SD = 7.3 s) under silent as well as in musical conditions respectively. In the presentation of threatening words with music resulted in yielded a mean response time of 27.8 s (SD = 6.2 s). The mean response times for threatening word lists minus the mean response times neutral word lists, was 7.2 under silent conditions. When the condition involved music the mean response time was 6.2. .

REFER TO YOUR TABLE—IN WHICH CASE YOU DON’T NEED TO GIVE SO MANY NUMBERS IN THE TEXT—MAYBE JUST THE DIFFERENCES YOU CALCULATED.

7.

Table 1

Mean response times in seconds (n = 6) under various word type and audio conditions

Neutral Words Threatening Words

Silence

22.1s

SD= 4.6s

29.3s

SD= 5.6s

Music

23.1s

SD= 7.3s

27.8s

SD= 6.2s

THE TABLE GOES AT THE END, AFTER THE REFERENCES. NOTICE THAT ALL THE MAIN WORDS IN THE CAPTION ARE CAPITALIZED. DON’T USE THE VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL RULE IN THE TABLE (SEE MODELS).

8.

Discussion

The results indicated that music played concurrently in this study served to notably inhibit anticipated increases in response for emotional words. It was discussed that there were possible explanations for these results including (1) misrepresented attention state associated with simultaneous task extraneous stimuli; (2) change in both excited and emotional state; and (3) The inflection of distinct brain areas involved in both cognitive and emotional processing. The present findings are broadly consistent with recent work that indicates that concurrent, task-irrelevant mental activity may paradoxically improve performance on cognitive tasks. Olivers and Nieuwenhuis (2005). The authors concluded that target detection may have been expedited because additional auditory stimuli cultivated a more diffuse, widely distributed attentional state with resultant benefits for processing speed and task execution. In a follow-up study (Olivers & Nieuwenhuis (2006). In Mitchell, McDonald and Brodie’s (2006) work they suggest that it may be the case that music more effectively serves to improve performance on demanding, even aversive, tasks when compared with other forms of less obviously pleasurable cognitive loading or stimuli.

We concluded that perhaps music listening may have aided in the positive emotional states that were coupled with better performance on the array of cognitive tasks, and may also have softened anxious reactions to threatening text. As the emotional Stroop paradigm has emerged over a period of time as one of the more robust emotional processing paradigms, we suggest that further research is undertaken with automated,

9.

computer-based versions of the Stroop test, larger samples, mixed word list presentations to overcome possible habituation effects and a wide variety of musical stimuli. Where concurrent brain imaging techniques can be used in adapted Stroop paradigms, such studies will be likely to prove fruitful in accounting for the various means by which emotional processes are impacted by music. (Cooke, Chaboyer, & Hiratos, 2005)

10.


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