Your Brain is a Mountain Lion Eating Bags of Money

Or: “The 5 Weirdest Ways Music can mess with your Mind”

But the title got you here, didn’t it? And music works kinda the same way. Distracting you from what you are doing…causing your brain to focus on something else.

It’s especially useful when you’re not doing anything important…like waiting On-Hold or waiting in line. And it’s at that exact moment that retailers, banks, and doctors offices want to distract you from realizing that you’re waiting. has a recent article in which they explore the 5 weirdest ways music messes with your mind. (…the newest scientific journal, right?)

But seriously, check this out:

#5 It 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.

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?”

But be careful what you choose for your On-Hold music…

…it can quickly backfire!

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.

Very cool stuff…that music. But if you want to know the rest, like how it taps into our primal fears, makes us stronger, changes your drinking habits, and makes you a better communicator, your going to have to read more at

We, after all, aren’t interested in making your customers stronger…unless of course you are a gym. Then we need to talk. We’ve got this great soundtrack to play On-Hold…

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