Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Orienting to Volume Changes--More IFS data!!!

Classes start for the Fall Semester tomorrow...well, today for those on a Tuesday/Thursday teaching schedule. And, I've spent the past few days getting syllabi ready for the coming term. One of the fortunate things is that I'm teaching "This is your Brain on Media,", the class I taught for IFS, again this semster as an S105 seminar. I was therefore able to keep what worked during IFS and revise what didn't.

As you may suspect if you've been following this blog lately, one thing that did work well was the student experiments. And, it's time to report on another one.

This was the second "Attention Group." They were interested in abrupt changes in volume in media and whether such a change would result in the automatic allocation of cognitive resources to processing the message. This is a phenomenon known as the orienting response. At first, the group seemed intent upon testing this in movie clips...but they had trouble finding examples...even though they were "sure they had seen them"!

In the end, music was what they selected (which The Audio Prof did not discourage!). The found four songs where the music was very quiet for an extended time and then got very loud. Furthermore, two of the songs were familar (Ironic from Alanis Morrisette and Bring Me to Life from Evanescence) and two of them were unfamiliar local bands that one of the students knew.

The students collected heart rate data during the songs presentations, which were played in random order to 4 other students. Then, they identified the points in each song where the volume change occurred. Here's what they found:

Now an orienting response is identified with a momentary deceleration in heart rate. And, this graph shows changes from the point at which the volume change occurred (the place where both lines are at "0" on the left side of the figure). And, you see that heart rate went down for both types of songs...so, they oriented to the volume changes just like the students thought would happen. Plus, they wondered whether familiarity with the song would have an impact. And, it seems that it did...the orienting responses were larger if the subject didn't know the song. Makes sense, right?

Congratulations to "Attention Group, Music" members:

David Benmen, Michelle Feder, Eliot Suitor-Feld, and Alexandra Wojtal

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