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This Is Why We Love Listening to Music While Driving Fast

Picture of Ryan Kristobak
Music Editor
Updated: 31 May 2017
With the arrival of the first sun-soaked summer days comes a universal desire: driving with the windows down and stereo blasting.

What is it about high speeds and loud music that we love so much? Speaking with Pitchfork, neuroscientist and author Dean Burnett discusses his new book Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To, in which he provides some compelling theories as to why music sounds best when driving fast.

One possible explanation is that the open road provides a sense of freedom and control that is then attached to the music playing. Think about the moments during road trips with friends when you first pull onto the highway and your current favorite jam comes on, and the high that follows.

Burnett also said it could be the fact that we feel like we are going to die when we drive fast:

Another possibility involves what’s known as “excitation displacement,” which is what happens when we watch horror movies or ride roller coasters. Your brain thinks you’re going to die, and there’s a giddy rush of adrenaline: a fight-or-flight response. “When you’re in that state, your brain is really sensitized,” Burnett notes. “It’s much more responsive to stimuli.” So anything that can feed off of that danger, like loud music, will seem comparatively more exciting, because the brain is already in an excited state. “You’re not just sat at home, in a comfy arm chair,” he adds. “You’re traveling at 80 miles an hour, and the brain goes, ‘I’m really excited—and that’s also an exciting thing, let’s do that!’”

Head over to Pitchfork to read the full report.