Dalhousie study searches for link between music, alcohol

Jamie-Lee Collins' study isn't the first one at Dal to look for student participants. But for many students it might be the most fun they've had participating in one.

Not an uncommon site on campus. Here, a student combines music and a beer after class. Photo: Jake Saltzman

A new Dalhousie University study examining the link between two major contributors to the university experience is looking for student participants.

Organized by the Department of Psychology and the university’s alcohol research lab, the study aims to explore how music contributes to students’ taste preferences of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Jamie-Lee Collins, a PhD candidate and graduate student at Dalhousie, is conducting the study, which is run by the Department of Psychology. Collins is advertising the study on campus, as well as on Kijiji.

Participants will be asked to listen to a 10-minute clip of music and then immediately sample two alcoholic drinks and two non-alcoholic drinks. Students will then take two breathalyzer tests - the first, five minutes after they’ve sampled the drinks and the second, after 10 minutes. They will then fill out a questionnaire and rate the taste of the beverages. Students between the ages of 19 and 25 are eligible, and need to have consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the last 30 days. Dalhousie will pay students $10 for taking part, or award students one hour of credit towards a future psychology class.

Collins says the study has been going on since last winter, and she hopes to wrap up at the end of the term. Dalhousie Prof. Sherry Stewart, who runs the research lab, is Collins’s adviser for the study. While the two have an outcome they hope to see when the study ends, Collins says she cannot disclose that while the study is open.

“We definitely have a specific outcome we’re intending,” says Collins. “This isn’t an experimental study.”

She plans to be done with the study by the end of the term.

“Hopefully we can finish up in April,” says Collins, who is conducting her first of three studies she needs to complete as part of her graduate program.

“But I’ve said that before. The study is definitely popular, but not as many people are eligible as (we hoped).”

Collins has accepted only about 10 per cent of applicants. She has had to dismiss a number of interested students because they didn’t fit all the technical requirements participants must satisfy.

Lily Klein, a gender studies major, took part in an ongoing Dalhousie psychology survey in 2013 that examines alcohol’s effect on romantic relationships.

That survey, carried out by Stewart, lasts four weeks and requires participants to answer weekly questionnaires. At the end of the study, Klein and her partner were each paid $40.

“It was a little goofy,” says Klein, a fourth-year student who has participated in two on-campus surveys.

“After it was over, we took our money and used it on all-you-can-eat sushi.”

Fourth-year philosophy student David Risk says alcohol and music are both important parts of his social life. According to Risk, general atmosphere and setting have more to do with drinking habits than music.

“I am more inclined to drink (alcohol) when I’m out (at a bar),” says Risk.

“It is more about being out and the whole general vibe - not just music.”