A neuroscientist named Valorie Salimpoor from the Rotman Research Institute has the scientific answer to the age old question "Why do my plastlists suck so hard?" After studying the brain activity of test subjects as they listened to music, Salimpoor suggests that the problem lies not with your ability to mix tracks together in an iTunes playlist, but more with the state of pop music in general.

When you hear music that you find intensely pleasurable, it triggers a dopamine response.

Salimpoor states that this dopamine response within the brain is the reason music lovers find their favorite tunes so addicting, because it essentially creates the same response in your brain that drugs do. But it's more complicated than that. Salimpoor explains that the dopamine response is stronger when the mind is confronted with some unexpected element.

Dopa­mine responses are optimized by an element of uncertainty.

Therein lies the problem. As most of us are well aware, today's pop music is heavily engineered to create a dopamine reaction in the listener as quickly as possible, using proven techniques to create music that will excite the masses. But this results in a great deal of predictable music, and that predictability lessens the brain's dopamine response.

As Salimpoor puts it, if the music is too predictable, “the dopamine response will quickly diminish. It’s why people love improvisational music like jazz—it’s different every time.

So if you're mixes are full of music that relies too heavily on safe formulas instead of trying something new and unexpected, you're probably gonna wind up with shitty playlists. Science.

[H/T: Wired]

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