Thursday, 17 April 2014

Day 98: This is what music is about

What went well?
  1. Went to a talk this morning at the PPC on "The Sounds of Kindness: Observing Positive Interpersonal Behavior in Everyday Life". I was totally mind-blown by the talk and all the possibilities it revealed. Basically, Matthias Mehl at the University of Arizona has pioneered the EAR (Electronically Activated Recorder) as a new method - it's a label microphone connected to an device that records random snippets of the sounds of everyday life. You can deduce a lot of things from the sounds the participant is surrounded by - where they are, what they're doing, who they're talking to, what kind of interaction it is, what kinds of words they're using, what they're feeling, how much they talk, etc., etc. I'm so excited for the potential for this new method to bypass a lot of the limitations of questionnaire measures, and to complement them too. I really hope to use it in my research in the future!
  2. Opera Scenes Dress Rehearsal was great!! It was so cool to see everyone else's scenes. Some of the acting was just hilarious. Oh my god, we have some seriously good actors in the midst. my duet, we kinda moved our pianist to tears. And she is embarrassed to have cried at Monteverdi, given that she studies later music (post-1840s). So, I took that as a good sign and a huge compliment!!!! I'm so excited for the performance tomorrow night.
  3. My friend from high school confirmed that she will be visiting me from Indiana (where she's studying) this weekend!

What did I learn?
  • Women are NOT more talkative than men. The book, "The Female Brain" made some completely unsubstantiated claim that "A woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000", but Mehl and his colleagues went through their EAR recordings and found that both sexes used about 16,000 words a day, and that sure, women spoke about 500 more words, but this difference was not statistically significant. Also, the three most talkative participants in that sample were males. Neurosexist myth debunked! Interestingly though, in self-reports, women report being more talkative than men. It just goes to show the force of cultural and societal expectations and norms, and the difference between self-concept and observed behaviour.
  • Kindness comes as a package, or "Kindness cluster": Empathy, Affection, Gratitude, Praise, Optimism. People who show more of one, tend to show more of the others.
  • People who show more everyday kindness laugh more and experience more positive emotion, and more meaningful social connectivity (socialising, disclosure conversations, and substantive conversations). But, everyday kindness seems to be uncorrelated with stress, depression, and life satisfaction.
  • Mehl and colleagues are using the EAR to study the "Sounds of Compassion" - whether a compassion meditation course actually affects daily behaviour. So exciting.

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