INTRODUCTIONWhether we are in an elevator, on the phone, in our cars or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, music seems to be all around us. Throughout the past decade, there has been much talk about the effects of music on a person’s psyche. Does aggressive music cause adolescents to commit violent acts? Does depressing music contribute to suicidal tendencies? Can music help people recover from disease, injury or a traumatic event? All these questions have received much scrutiny, and will continue do so for decades to come.
Many people listen to music for sheer auditory pleasure, but music can do a lot more than provide a temporary pleasure. In a 2000 study conducted by Harvey, music was found to have a significant correlation with mood; it was found that music helped facilitate a relaxed or excited inner mood. In his study, Harvey relied on self-reports. He administered a mood questionnaire that contained 6 statements that tested the participants on what music they preferred when they were in a given mood. For instance, one statement that the participants were asked to agree or disagree with was, “When I am depressed, I listen to music with an up-tempo beat.” This study found a strong correlation between up-tempo music and an excited mood; the findings also indicate that softer music correlated with a relaxed mood (Harvey, 2000).
In a similar study by Meyer, participants associated certain music selections with relaxed thoughts. These thoughts are believed to merely represent a particular mood in symbolic form. For example, one participant envisioned herself floating down a river while she was listening to a relaxing piece of music. However, it is still unclear whether the music itself is the cause of this response, or if it simply enables such a response to take place. In the findings of the study, the author states, “The musical stimuli may have functioned merely as a kind of catalytic agent.” (Meyer, 1956/1994) Whatever the role of the music used in this study was, the feelings felt by the participants after listening to the music are indisputable.
Another method to measure the influence of music, besides self-reports on mood, is actual physiological changes. In regards to music, this means determining which music is most arousing in nature. Arousal is defined as a rise in diastolic and systolic blood pressure while listening to music. In a 1999 study conducted by McNamara and Ballard, it was found that heavy metal is the most arousing music, followed by alternative rock, rap, and dance music (McNamara & Ballard, 1999). The findings of this study are significant because they indicate that the manner in which the body is affected by music is not solely dependent on what type of music is preferred by the individual, but also by the nature of the music in and of itself.
The issue of personal perception of different types of music is nonetheless an important one. The question of effect of music on mood is weighted by music preference. For example, a 1999 study by Scheel and Westefeld showed that a person’s preferred choice of music seemed to be associated with a positive mood. Less than 1% of participants in the study reported feeling sad when listening to their preferred choice of music. The participants in the study also reported that, in general, they did not listen to their preferred choice of music when angry (Scheel & Westefeld, 1999). This study demonstrates that, overall, music is associated with a positive experience.
Information such as that discovered in the Scheel, Westefeld study has been proven to be useful in more than just a laboratory setting. In 1990, a review article by Bruner and Gordon revealed that: 1) Human beings non-randomly assign emotional meaning to music, and 2) people experience non-random affective reactions to music. This is the primary reason that advertisers use music on television and radio; that is, music and message are associated. For instance, one of the reviewed studies was conducted by Millman in 1982, and it dealt with pace of music in relation to volume of sales. In it, Millman played both slow-paced and fast-paced music in a store, and he found that sales volume was significantly greater when the slow-paced music was playing over the loud speakers. This marketing review indicates that different components of music are capable of having a real effect on mood.
Previous research points to a sort of chain reaction upon hearing music. That is, music elicits an arousal, arousal leads to an emotional response, emotion creates a mood, mood can influence disposition and disposition can influence actions. The purpose of this study was to determine the way in which different music affects a person’s responses on a semantic differential test that measured both mood and disposition. The independent variable in the study was the genre of music administered, which was either uplifting, aggressive, depressing or no music at all. The dependent variables were the participants’ responses to the three questions measuring mood and the eight questions regarding disposition. The hypothesis was that different genres of music would have an effect on a person’s responses on a semantic differential questionnaire that asked questions regarding mood and disposition, and that the differences among responses would occur in this manner: a) uplifting music would lead to more positive responses, b) aggressive music would lead to more aggressive responses, and c) depressing music would lead to more negative responses.
For this study, 35 Loyola University college students between the ages of 18 and 22 volunteered. There were 26 men and 9 women. Convenience sampling was the technique used to recruit participants via sign-up sheets that contained four possible time slots that the students could sign up at. The sign up sheets were passed around in different psychology classes. Some volunteers in the study received course credit.
Materials included in the study were: a boom-box that played compact discs and three compact discs each of which contained either uplifting, aggressive or depressing music. The uplifting compact disk contained five songs by Five Fingers of Funk. The songs were: “The Mindstraights,” “You Jane Me Funky,” “Funky 97,” “Pass the Vibe” and “Whoose Loadin’.” All the music on the aggressive compact disk was by Rage Against the Machine. The tracks included: “Guerilla Radio,” “People of the Sun,” “Calm Like a Bomb” and “Bulls on Parade.” The songs on the depressing compact disk were: “Baby Can I Hold You Tonight” by Tracy Chapman, “Hands” by Jewel, “Walk on the Ocean” by Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Change” by Blind Melon and “Time of Your Life” by Greenday. Other materials used include: a 2 ˝ X 6, black and white picture of Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa and a seven point semantic differential questionnaire. The semantic differential questionnaire was constructed to measure how positive, aggressive, or negative the participants’ responses were on the three questions regarding mood and the eight questions regarding disposition. For example, a few of the words that appeared on the questionnaire that were associated with positive responses were: content, joyous, and elated. A few words that were associated with aggressive responses were: excited, angry and aggressive. Examples of words that were associated with negative responses on the questionnaire were: somber, hopeless and bored. The questionnaire also contained demographic questions asking for age, sex and musical preference. See appendix A for the complete questionnaire.
Design and Procedure
This quasi-experiment employed a single variable that was manipulated between each group of participants. The manipulated independent variable was the genre of music that was played for the participants. The dependent variable was the responses on the semantic differential questionnaire. The first question that was asked of the participants was, “How do you feel right now?” Three separate responses were used to gauge this question (mood question). The next question asked was, “How would you describe the emotion felt by the model in the Mona Lisa?” Eight different responses were used to gauge this question (disposition question). It should be noted that the investigators did not play music for one of the four groups, the control group.
To ensure the objectivity of the study, the researchers employed certain controls. The investigators used the same classroom for each of the four times that the experiment was run. The music was also played at the same volume level for each of the three music listening groups. Furthermore, the researchers ensured that all participants in the study listened to the music for the same amount of time before filling out the survey.
Upon arrival at the classroom at the designated time, the participants were asked to wait outside until all of the participants had arrived. When all had arrived, one of the investigators led them in and seated them while one of the three genres of music was playing. At each participant’s seat, was a picture of the Mona Lisa. During one of the four sessions, no music was played, as these participants were the control group. When all the participants were seated, the investigators prevented anyone else from entering the room and then handed out informed consent forms with the music still playing in the background.
When all the consent forms were signed, the questionnaire was handed out. For the eight questions regarding disposition, the students examined the picture of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa and were asked to respond to the questions regarding the picture. After all the questionnaires were turned in, the researchers debriefed the participants and explained why there was music being played and the whole purpose of the experiment. The participants were given the opportunity to ask questions before they left.
RESULTSThe participant pool was composed of 26 men and 9 women. A one-way between groups analysis of variance was conducted on the three questions regarding current mood (M = 14.51, SD = 2.16). Nothing of statistical significance was found (F (3, 31) = .825, p = 49). Another one-way between groups analysis of variance was conducted on the eight questions regarding disposition (M = 28.20, SD= 4.75). Again, nothing of statistical significance was found (F (3, 31) = .650, p = .589).
In a secondary analysis of variables, a one-way analysis of variance was conducted on each item of the survey that compared the mean scores of the group that listened to aggressive music, the group that listened to uplifting music, the group that listened to depressing music and the control group. These tests revealed nothing of statistical significance except on the fifth item in the disposition section regarding opinion of the Mona Lisa (see Appendix A). This item asked participants to rate the Mona Lisa as either pensive (positive) or bored (negative). The one-way analysis of variance on this item did prove to be statistically significant (F(3, 31) = 5.861, p = .003). An LSD test indicated that the mean for the participants who listened to the aggressive music (M = 4.50, SD = .85) was significantly greater (p = .015) than that of the control group (M = 3.30, SD = .95). Also, the test revealed that the mean of the group that listened to the uplifting music (M = 5.60, SD = 1.14) was significantly greater (p = .009) than both the mean of the group that listened to the depressing music (M = 4.00, SD = 1.25), and the mean of the control group (p < .01).
DISCUSSIONThe original hypothesis was that different genres of music would have an effect on a person’s responses on a semantic differential questionnaire that asked questions regarding mood and disposition, and that the differences among responses would occur in this manner: a) uplifting music would lead to more positive responses, b) aggressive music would lead to more aggressive responses, and c) depressing music would lead to more negative responses. The independent variable in the study was the genre of music administered, which was either uplifting, aggressive or depressing. The dependent variables were the responses elicited on the three questions regarding mood and the eight questions regarding disposition. At the conclusion of the study, the results did not support the hypothesis. There was no significant difference between groups in regards to responses elicited; therefore the investigators were unable to reject the null hypothesis.
The only significant differences were found in the responses to item 5 in the disposition section of the questionnaire (see Appendix A). This item asked the participant to rate the Mona Lisa as either bored (negative) or pensive (positive). The results showed that the group that listened to uplifting music rated the painting more positively than both the control group and the group that listened to the depressing music. Also, the results on this item indicate that the group that listened to the aggressive music rated the painting significantly more positive (pensively) than the control group did. Though there were significant differences between groups in the responses to this one item, it was not enough to warrant the investigators’ rejection of the null hypothesis.
The results of this study, when compared to that of other research on this topic, do not lend support to the findings of these other studies. For instance, the 1990 review article by Bruner and Gordon found that human beings experience non-random affective reactions to music. Judging by the similarity of results between all four groups, it seems that there is no difference in affective reactions to different types of music. The Scheel and Westefeld study conducted in 1999 found that a person’s preferred choice of music seemed to be associated with a positive mood. However, when conducting a secondary analysis between preferred type of music and opinion of the Mona Lisa, no statistical relationship between the preferred music and positiveness of response to the painting was found.
The fact that the results of the study in no way support similar studies conducted on music and disposition or mood implies that there may have been internal problems with the study itself. For instance, one possible problem was that a lot of people that signed up for the study failed to participate. This meant that the sample of the population was smaller than the researchers had anticipated. In fact for one of the groups, the group that was to listen to the uplifting music, only five people out of the thirteen that signed up showed up. The investigators felt that they did all they could to ensure that those who signed up would actually attend. They spoke to every psychology class that they recruited from. They had the instructors remind the participants of the study in class the day before the study, and they also sent emails to all participants as a reminder on the day before the study was conducted. Perhaps the only way to ensure that the study would have the intended amount of participants would be to grossly over recruit for the study.
Another possible error that the study may have had was that the participants did not have a long period of time to listen to the music before taking the questionnaire. This may have prevented the music from truly affecting the participant’s responses to the questions. One way to solve this problem would be to lengthen the survey by asking more questions unrelated to the true study before the participant’s respond to the questions that the investigators were interested in. By doing this, the participant’s will have to listen to the music longer which may possibly lead to a more real effect on their responses to the questions pertinent to the study.
A final thing that may have negatively affected the generalizability of the study was that the sample size did not accurately represent the population of Loyola University. Only 9 out of 35 participants were women, while Loyola’s true population is comprised of more women than men. This problem can be remedied by recruiting via stratified convenience sampling.
While the findings of the study primarily add to the body of knowledge regarding the effects of music, the results do have some practical implications. For instance, the fields of advertising and marketing often make use of music to create goodwill towards their product or service. The results of other research studying this topic indicate that music does have a positive effect. This study does not disprove that. In fact, it may give insight to the reason that this is so. This study implies that people do not actually believe that things are better or worse in and of themselves on the basis of music, but rather it is the positive feeling that is elicited from the music in the advertisement that causes people to apply the advertisement’s message when selecting a product or service.
The theoretical implications of the study are many. For starters, it implies that disposition changes due to genre of music may only occur over a long period of listening. In other words, listening to music may cause a gradual disposition change rather than an immediate one. Another possible implication of the study is that music is viewed more on a conscious level than a subconscious one. People make music do certain things for them (i.e. relax or pump-up), rather than music naturally having this effect. This study on music’s effect on mood and disposition can serve as a basis for future studies. For example, this study can be redone with the proposed aforementioned changes. This may prove that this study was, in fact, lacking validity. Another future research project may involve employing more variety in visual aids. For instance, use three photographs of the same person; the control group should judge one picture as slightly aggressive in nature, one as mildly happy and one as a little depressed. Play the three genres of music used in this study (a different one for each group) and compare the differences in judgment of the photos using a semantic differential scale. This may prove to show more clear-cut differences between the groups. Yet another possible study may involve just simply asking different groups to rate how they feel about certain things such as school or religion, as they are listening to a certain type of music. These are just a few ideas for future research that could further the body of knowledge about this subject matter.
REFERENCES Bruner, I.I., & Gordon, C. (1990). Music, mood and marketing. Journal of Marketing, 54, 94-104.
McNamara, L.M., & Ballard, M.E. (1999). Resting arousal, sensation seeking, and music preference. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 125, 229-236.
Meyer, L. (1994). Extracts from Meyer’s book. In R. Aiello & J. Sloboda (Eds.), Musical Perceptions (pp. 3-39). New York: Oxford Press. (Reprinted from Emotion and Meaning in Music, chap.1, 1956, Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
Scheel, K.R., & Westefeld, J.S. (1999). Heavy metal music and adolescent suicidality: An empirical investigation. Adolescence, 34, 253-259.
Harvey, S.M. (2000, November). Music Perception. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse [On-line]. Availble: http://clearinghouse.mwsc.edu/manuscripts/
Please supply the following information:
1. Age: _____
2. Sex: ______
3. Major: ____________
4. Classification: _____
5. Musical Preference: ___________
Using the scales, answer the following questions to the best of your knowledge. Place a check closet to the word that you feel best represents your answer. The more strongly you feel about an answer, the closer your check should be to that word. A check above the number three will be viewed as neutral:
How are you feeling right now?
Happy __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Sad7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Aggressive __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Calm 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Excited __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Relaxed7 6 5 4 3 2 1
How would you describe the emotion felt by the model in the Mona Lisa?
Elated __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Indifferent7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Annoyed __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Proud 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Somber __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Excited7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Hopeless __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Joyous 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Pensive __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Bored7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Anxious __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Calm7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Angry __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Peaceful7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Depressed __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Content 7 6 5 4 3 2 1