Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scary Science

Bob Dylan said "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." I think that logic applies here. I just read about a new study that proves that frightening music can be even scarier when one has his eyes closed. The headline reads: Scary Music Scarier with Eyes Closed. Initially I was puzzled to why this study was even conducted. After all, isn't everything scarier in the dark? But after reading the article, I see there is much more at work here. The article claims that people often close their eyes to feel more immersed in music. This causes brain waves to be altered, and the music charges emotions which are amplified from the mood the music is meant to generate. In other words scary music is scarier, and as the article explains, other emotions are amplified the same way whether the mood of the music is meant to be positive, mellow, or angry. Basically, as I understand this study, EVERYTHING is amplified when one closes his eyes. I find this is true most of the time, but especially when I am trying to sleep. It doesn't matter if I am listening to music, or talk radio, or even noise from the television. When I close my eyes for an extended period of time, I tend to sleep. I am positive that this would not be as easy if my eyes were to remain open. In fact, I have tried it. It's virtually impossible. On the contrary, I find that my ability to drive a car weakens drastically when I close my eyes. It doesn't matter at all if the car radio is on or off. It becomes a struggle to keep the wheels between the lines, and it's extremely hard to anticipate the turns and street signs. Even with the radio blaring Don't Worry... Be Happy, this is quite a chore. It's one of those cases where the study is completely wrong, because even though "positive" music is playing, the feeling I am overcome with is not blissful, but more like extreme terror-anticipation. Opening the eyes generally makes this horrible feeling vanish immediately, which is a nice recovery... Unless of course I am in the direct path of an oncoming road grader. Then the terror-anticipation thing starts all over again. This seems like a good avenue for these scientists to take. Would "happy music" make the experience better for a person if it was played while feeding that person to lions? Although it might create a momentary distraction, I doubt it. Even Bobby McFerrin couldn't make that a pleasant experience. But why not explore this theory? It makes about as much sense as conducting a study to see if closing one's eyes can amplify emotions derived from music. In other words, this study is one of those that generally confirms what we already know. But at least with the lion feeding experiment, it would be a lot less boring. If you are curious about life's little (real) mysteries, I suggest going to this site. It's not science conducted by studies, but scientific facts. It's interesting and fun, and it might actually contain a factoid that you didn't already know. And... Nobody gets hurt.