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Research Interests

"The power of music to integrate and cure ... is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest non-chemical medication."

[Oliver Sacks, Awakenings]

Overall, my research efforts are driven by the goal of practical applications of music and sound for therapeutic and healing practices and for enhancing well-being in daily life. To this aim, I use the tools of affective and cognitive psychology as well as neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI. I also employ ecologically valid methodologies, such as mobile experience sampling in daily life, psychophysiology, and analysis of qualitative data.

Music & Consciousness

Can music shape conscious mental states? My core research focuses specifically on examining how music and sound can be used to modulate the occurrence and phenomenal contents of ongoing thoughts (mind-wandering or daydreaming episodes) as well as mental imagery (such as visual images in one's mind's eye).

Key articles:

Taruffi, L., Pehrs, C., Skouras, S. & Koelsch, S. (2017). Effects of sad and happy music on mind-wandering and the default mode network. Scientific Reports, 7(1): 14396.

 

Taruffi, L., & Küssner, M. B. (2019). A review of music-evoked visual mental imagery: Conceptual issues, relation to emotion, and functional outcome. 

Psychomusicology, 29(2-3): 62–74.

Herff, S. A., Cecchetti, G., Taruffi, L., & Déguernel, K. (2021). Music influences vividness and content of imagined journeys in a directed visual imagery task. Scientific Reports, 11(1): 15990.

Küssner, M. B., & Taruffi, L. (2023). Modalities and causal routes in music-induced mental imagery. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 27(2): 114-115.

Jin Nong, Plum Blossoms

Health and Well-Being

The therapeutic power of music has been known since ancient times and music-based healing practises have been found in tribes across the world. Today we know that engaging with music has strong benefits on both mental and physical health throughout the lifespan. In this context, I am particularly interested in examining how music, and sound, can be used to stimulate healthy styles of thinking,

Key articles:

Taruffi, L. (2021). Mind-wandering during personal music listening in everyday life: Music-evoked emotions predict thought valence. IJERH, 18(23): 12321.

Taruffi, L., & Koelsch, S. (2022). Music-evoked emotions: Their contribution to aesthetic experiences, health, and well-being. In Skov, M., & Nadal, M. (Eds.). The Routledge International Handbook of Neuroaesthetics (1st ed.). Routledge. 

Taruffi, L., & Küssner, M. B. (2023). Visual mental imagery, music, and emotion: From academic discourse to clinical applications. In Eds, M. B., Küssner, L., Taruffi, & G. A., Floridou, Music and Mental Imagery. SEMPRE Studies in The Psychology of Music. London, LDN: Routledge.

Jin Nong, Plum Blossoms

"Ecological" Experiences with Music

Can the results of experiments conducted in the lab generalise to "everyday" experiences with music? To overcome the problem of ecological validity, in my research I also adopt naturalistic approaches such as conducting field work in the context of a live concert, gig, or music festival or using "real" music as stimulus material.

Key Articles:

Taruffi, L. (2021). Mind-wandering during personal music listening in everyday life: music-evoked emotions predict thought valence. IJERH, 18(23): 12321.

Deil, J., Markert, N., Normand, P., Kammen, P., Küssner, M. B., & Taruffi, L. (2022). Mind-wandering during contemporary live music: An exploratory study. Musicae Scientiae.

Jin Nong, Plum Blossoms

Music & Emotion

Listeners from around the world deliberately turn to sad music and sorrowful songs, which are often considered among the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. But, why are people so drawn to sad music, if sadness is inherently a negative emotion normally avoided in everyday life? While unravelling the sad music’s conundrum, I am also interested in the broader impact of music-evoked emotions on psychological functions (emotion and thought regulation).

Key articles:

Taruffi, L., & Koelsch, S. (2014). The paradox of music-evoked sadness: An online survey. PLOS ONE, 9(10): e110490. 

Taruffi, L. (2018). Sad music and self-reflection: Comment on "An Integrative Review of the Enjoyment of Sadness Associated with Music" by Eerola T. et al. Physics of Life Reviews, 25: 131-133. 

Taruffi, L., & Koelsch, S. (2018). Why we listen to sad music: Philosophical perspectives, psychological functions and underlying brain mechanisms. In Gouk, P., Kennaway, J., Prins, J., & Thormaehlen, W. (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Music, Mind, and Wellbeing. Routledge.

Taruffi, L. (2019). The neuropsychology of music and emotions. In Emotionen: Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Kappelhoff, H., Bakels, J.-H., Lehmann, H. & Schmitt, C. J.B. Metzler, Stuttgart. 427-432. 

Nong, Plum Blossoms

Empirical Aesthetics

What's an "aesthetic" experience with music? Can we identify its core components? And can we "reproduce" it in a scientific lab? I am interested in all these questions both from philosophical and scientific perspectives. 

Key articles:

Taruffi, L., Skouras, S., Pehrs, C., & Koelsch, S. (2021). Trait empathy shapes neural responses towards sad music. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 21: 231-241.

Taruffi, L., & Koelsch, S. (2022). Music-evoked emotions: Their contribution to aesthetic experiences, health, and well-being. In Skov, M., & Nadal, M. (Eds.). The Routledge International Handbook of Neuroaesthetics (1st ed.). Routledge. 

Jin Nong, Plum Blossoms

Personality Psychology

Do individual characteristics, such as personality traits, influence our perception and experience of music? Within this topic, I am particularly interested in examining how empathic and alexithymic individuals react to music as well as in developing novel tools to assess inter-individual variability in imagery experiences with music.

Key Articles:

Taruffi, L., Allen, R., Downing, J., & Heaton, P. (2017). Individual differences in music-perceived emotions: The influence of externally-oriented thinking. Music Perception, 34(3): 253-266. 

Taruffi, L., Skouras, S., Pehrs, C., & Koelsch, S. (2021). Trait empathy shapes neural responses towards sad music. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 21: 231-241.

Jin Nong, Plum Blossoms

Images: Jin Nong, Plum Blossoms

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