You’re not crazy if you hear Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part” and feel a sudden urge to fall in love. While some songs stimulate greater feelings than others, the scientific tie between music and emotions, such as love, is very real. Hearing music produces a litany of internal neurological processes, unlocking various emotional experiences.
A McGill University study cited by Psychology Today breaks down how music can actually cause a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, the “feel–good chemical,” is usually released upon sleep or food consumption and operates as a means of reward in the body. Similarly, singing can cause the release of oxytocin, often dubbed the “cuddle hormone,” furthering positive feelings associated with music.
Music produces not only hormonal effects, but physical effects as well. Those chills you may get when listening to a great song are the result of your brain’s reaction to the song. Get ready to learn a new word because those chills actually have a name: frissons. A study published by Wesleyan University’s psychology department goes deeper into that feeling that is colloquially known as “skin orgasms.” To the authors of this study, the term "frisson" combines both strong emotional feelings with actual physical effects. So, if you’re ever listening to music and feel as if love is suddenly permeating your insides, you now know exactly how to describe it.
This is not a recent phenomenon, as humans have been evolutionarily trained over thousands of years to respond to music in this way. An article in ABC News cites Dr. Sandra Garrido, a postdoctoral research fellow at Western Sydney University, who says, "We are evolutionarily programmed to respond to particular cues in the human voice and to perceive them as expressing particular emotions … And when those same features occur in music we respond to that in the same way, [it's] as if it was a person in front of us doing that." This means that when an artist’s voice has a loving tone, we may be more likely to be romantically stimulated.
Beyond these experiences, music may actually impact the way you look at a loved one. An article in Scientific American delves into the visual impact music can have. While a photograph may not stimulate any sort of reaction, adding what may be considered “happy music” can actually make it more pleasant. The article cites a study by Nidhya Logeswaran and Joydeep Bhattacharya from the University of London, who found that music can impact the way one relates emotionally to someone else’s face. Joyful music can make someone seem happy, and sad music can have the opposite effect. The sounds you hear when interacting with your romantic interest can actually lead you to view them more positively.
We can also create direct associations between the music we listen to and specific positive emotions we feel. Even more so, relating a song to an experience of love can lead you to consistently feel deep affection when playing back that song. A study titled “Music and Emotions in the Brain: Familiarity Matters,” details the emotional effect caused by music. The researchers claim, “Our results not only strengthen the body of evidence showing that music is very efficient in recruiting emotional centres of the brain, but also clearly provide evidence that familiarity with a particular piece of music is an extremely important factor for emotional engagement, and thus furnishes 'direct access' to these emotional centres of the brain.” Therefore, once you create a relationship with a piece of music, and even have ‘your song,’ it can consistently evoke positive feelings for you.
Music doesn’t stimulate lovey–dovey feelings in everyone, but there is evidence that it can. It has power beyond what we can see. So next time a song brings you a desire to find "the one," don’t fret. It’s natural.