The entire reason music exists is because of its almost magical ability to push your buttons. An upbeat song gets you going, a sad song makes you cry and drink. But the more science studies music's effect on the human brain, the more bizarre things we discover.
For instance ...
5It Changes Your Ability to Perceive Time
Hold music -- the stuff you hear on the line when you call everyone from the bank to your local bail bond agency -- didn't fall into America's phone lines by accident. It's designed specifically to reduce the amount of time you think you're waiting, so that you're less likely to hang up in anger. Other places that involve waiting, such as doctors' offices, use a similar trick. Time shrinkage is also the aim of most retail stores, which is why you'll rarely enter a mall, supermarket or clothing store without hearing some sort of music in the background.
Our coke dealer always has Iggy Pop on at his apartment.
How the hell does music do that?
To understand why exactly music makes it seem like less time has passed, think of the human brain as a mountain lion that is eating a bag of money. It doesn't matter what the zookeepers distract it with -- food, shiny objects or just shouting and yelling. All that matters is that they give another zookeeper the chance to sneak up and retrieve the money while the lion is busy deciding which one of them to eat.
Similarly, when your brain is steadily distracted, you'll be less likely to notice things around you in detail, and this includes the passage of time. Our brains have limited input capacity, and when something else is using up that capacity, we're less likely to think things like, "I've been standing in line to get Richard Moll's autograph for three goddamn hours" or "Do I really need this Garfield alarm clock?"
"Will Katy Perry really sleep with me if I keep buying her music?"
But it works the opposite way, too. In some situations, listening to music can actually expand perceived time. For example, listening to music while performing tasks that require concentration will usually cause us to overestimate the amount of time that has passed. The theory is that as your mind switches back and forth between perception of the music and concentration on the challenging tasks, it forms separate "events," or distinct memories. When your brain thinks about what you've been doing for the past hour, you'll remember more of these events and recall that the hour was quite long.
Experiments have found that time also expands when we're listening to familiar music that we dislike.
When we hear the opening chords of a song, our brain remembers the whole thing and immediately skips ahead and plays it mentally. This fake mind-music is extremely vivid, working on exactly the same parts of the brain as actual music does. So the effect is that you take a few moments to vividly imagine that you're sitting through five minutes of that damn New Radicals song before you come back to reality only to realize that you still actually have to sit through it.