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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
MORRIS, A., MYERS, S., SCHAUMBERG, L., SCHRAGE, K. (2005). The Perceived Effects of Music on Exercise Performance. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 8. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 28, 2023 .

The Perceived Effects of Music on Exercise Performance

Sponsored by: JOY DRINNON (jrdrinnon@milligan.edu)
The present study explored how the participants` perceptions of the effects of music actually affected their exercise performance. Ninety-one college students in a fitness class were asked to run a brief warm-up to music. One group (n = 25, Group A) was informed that music would enhance their performance. The other group (n = 19, Group B) was informed music would detract from their exercise performance. The last group served as the control group (n = 47, Group C) and was simply asked to run laps. To analyze our results, we ran a one way ANOVA including our multiple groups. Our results showed that significance was found in the number of laps and also in the expectation of the influence of music. Consistent with our predictions, the participants who were told that music would enhance their exercise performance did indeed show a significant change in number of laps.

If participants are told that something will enhance their performance, will their perception actually cause them to perform better? Conversely, if participants are told that something will detract from their performance, will their perception cause them to perform at a lesser level? How does the power of perception sway people in their response? Many researchers in the past have studied the effects of perception on participants. In particular, the practice of “priming”—making participants aware of a certain stimulus before they are exposed to it, giving them a bias toward something—is of extreme interest. Studies have shown that attitudes and subjective norms predict behavioral intentions (which, in turn, predict behavior) (Lowin & Epstein, 1965). By priming participants with particular instructions prior to the experiment, a researcher can actually heighten the likelihood that thoughts with much the same meaning as the stimulus will come to mind. A good example of priming was done when male college students were asked to watch a brief film, either of a prize fight or a football game. Subjects were to interpret the contest as either aggressive or non-aggressive. The subjects who were primed to believe that the sports were meant to be aggressive were more likely to act aggressively toward other people after viewing the materials and actually rated the film as more aggressive. Subjects exposed to the prize fights were told prior to watching the fight that the loser had either very positive or very negative characteristics. At the end of the fight the loser was rated more positively or more negatively depending on the type of priming to which the participants were exposed (University of Nevada, 1999). Participant expectations, caused by priming, are thought to determine the outcome of performance. In a study done by Lowin and Epstein (1965) it was found that participants actually preferred to fail and confirm failure expectancy than to be successful and disconfirm the expectancy. Another study done by Phillips and Tokar (2004) investigated a videotaped intervention designed to influence the participants’ perception about career counseling. Based on an “attitudes toward career counseling scale”, the researchers concluded that those who had watched the videotape that promoted career-counseling were more inclined to rate career-counseling positively than those who had not watched the videotape. Finally, in a study conducted by Finnigan and Millar (1998) the subjects were told verbally and in writing that food had positive, negative or neutral effects on their performance after the consumption of alcohol. The verbal expectancy manipulation had a significant effect on the rated ability to perform. It was concluded that verbal expectancy effects about alcohol influence verbal or social behaviors fairly easily. A study conducted by Despres, Gauzins and Hugeut (2004) confirmed the verbal expectancy effects. While all these studies used different means to manipulate the subjects’ perceptions, the theory is still consistent. When participants are told that a stimulus will affect them in some way, they will in fact behave accordingly. This priming is particularly effective with regards to physical exercise performance. Based on ten different studies conducted by Cromartie and Matesic (2002), a consensus was formed that “exercise endurance and performance perception were positively influenced by music versus non-music conditions.” Cromartie and Matesic studied the effects of music on athletic performance and discovered that music seems to provide an athlete with an appropriate focus of attention that relieves boredom and decreases the sense of effort. Since our attention system has a limited capacity, the music essentially works by distracting the participant from feelings of pain or fatigue. At a given exercise intensity, participants reported a reduced sense of effort (measured as a rate of perceived exertion) when exercising with music. The researchers suggested that listening to music during exercise produces an altered state of consciousness that allows immersion in the activity and causes a sense of effortlessness to ensue that can be associated with a distorted sense of time. This distorted sense of time causes the overall perception of the workout to be more favorable. Cromartie and Matesic (2002) also found that music enhances work output by synchronizing movement with music to provide an effective training pace. Some music appeared to be able to trigger positive emotions, creating a pleasant working environment. Despite differing modes of exercise, performance with music appeared to be improved by approximately five to seven percent. Based on the extensive research supporting the positive effects of music on exercise, we decided to further explore the above mentioned theory of participant perception with regard to music and exercise. We designed an experiment to determine if we could induce the expectancy that music would either enhance or detract from a participants’ work-out. We manipulated the expectations of our participants with regard to music and exercise through both verbal and written instructions. Consistent with previous researchers’ hypotheses, it was expected that participants who were told that music would enhance their performance would perform better than participants who were told that music would detract from their performance. The control group would serve merely as a means to compare the amount of laps and perception of music to the experimental groups.


Data were collected from 91 undergraduate students in a general education fitness class required of all students at Milligan College, a small liberal arts college in Northeast Tennessee. Demographically the college is composed of mostly white, middle to upper-middle class students. As such, our sample was representative of the current campus at large. Some participants failed to record the number of laps they ran; therefore they were excluded from the analysis of the collected data. This left 24 people in the “enhance” group, 19 people in the “detract” group and 42 people in the control group.

The materials included in this study were three different informed consent forms (neutral consent form for Group C, a positively worded form for Group A, and a negatively worded form for Group B). We also designed a "pop and rock" CD that played throughout the entire experiment for all groups. Lastly, we completed the data collection with a short questionnaire consisting of a rating scale from one to five (1-exhausted and 5-ready for more). Participants evaluated their own physical state, perceived intensity of their workout, and their perceptions of the effect of music. Two other generically worded questions ended the questionnaire but were not included in our analysis as they were merely used to distract our participants from the true nature of our experiment.

The present study had one independent variable with three different levels. The students were required to run on the track as part of a fitness pretest. The run took place even if the students were not participating in the study. We used the required pretest as an opportunity to test whether or not students’ beliefs about the effects of music on exercise performance would affect their perception of their own performance while listening to music. Students in this class were assigned to one of three conditions alphabetically by last name. The first group (first half of the alphabet, Group C) served as our control group. We played a “pop and rock” CD specifically designed for workouts. We distributed an informed consent sheet (see appendix A) with a detailed explanation of the procedure and a short description of our experiment. They were told to run around the track until they heard our whistle blow, at which point they were handed a short questionnaire (see Appendix B). The second group that came in was randomly divided into two groups; each person entering the gym was assigned a number, either 1 or 2, and sent to opposite sides of the gym. The same CD was playing. The first half (Group A) was handed an informed consent sheet (see Appendix C) with the same information as the control condition. The one exception was the statement in bold print about the expected effects of music on performance. The statement stated specifically that “The music is intended to enhance the intensity and productivity of your workout.” The students in the other condition received the same informed consent except the statement in bold print read as follows: “The music is intended to decrease the intensity and productivity of your workout.” The informed consent was read aloud to the first group (Group A) and they signed the papers. Then the second informed consent was read to Group B on the other side of the gym (out of the hearing distance of Group A) and they signed the papers. Both groups began running at the same time, but starting at different points, while the same CD was being played over the loud speaker. At the whistle, both groups stopped and completed the dependent variable questionnaire (the same for all groups; see Appendix D).

We conducted a one-way ANOVA to evaluate the multiple levels of the IV (neutral, performance enhanced, performance detracted). For Group C (n = 42), for Group A (n = 25), for Group B (n = 19) (see Table 1). In each of the four categories, Group A (the "enhanced" group) consistently reported a higher mean rating than groups B or C, indicating significant differences in peoples` perception of intensity, perceived effects of music, and number of laps recorded (p < .05). Our ANOVA test revealed that laps between groups and music between groups were both significant with a p < .05 (see Table 2). To find out which mean differences were significant we ran a LSD post hoc test. This test revealed a significant difference in the number of laps recorded between Group A and B (p = .001) and Group A and C (p = .018). We also found significance in positively rated intensity between Group A and B (p = .037) and Group A and C (p = .037). With regard to the perception of music there was only significance between Group B and C (p = .02). No significance was found in the ratings of physical intensity (see Table 3).

In our study we found that participants who were told that music would enhance their performance ran more laps and had a higher intensity rating than both the control and enhance groups (C and B respectively). With regards to music actually influencing the perception of the participants in their work-out, the results suggest that those in the control group might have believed that music would influence their performance without even being told that. These results also suggest that the people in the detract group did not really believe what they were told because they weren’t affected more than the control group (except on music). The control group actually had the highest rating of music affecting their performance compared to both the enhance and detract groups. The control group mean ratings for laps and intensity were also higher than the detract group. A possible reason for this is that the general belief that music enhances exercise is so innate that the control group assumed the music would increase their performance and the detract group did not thoroughly believe what we told them. It is interesting to note that while the detract group rated music as not affecting their workout, their number of laps recorded and their ratings of physical intensity were actually lower, causing the researchers to speculate if there was indeed a somewhat altered perception that perhaps manifested itself subconsciously. So while the ratings of music on exercise were not what was expected, the statistics are still valuable for future referral and consideration. Perhaps the participants’ preconceived biases were so strong that a mere written word trying to dissuade was not enough. The ratings of physical intensity were not significant (p = .753). Justification for that lack of significance could be that the time was short (3 minutes long) and therefore not long enough to show a real difference in physical exertion. Also, some students reported that knowing that these laps were simply a warm-up caused them to not perform at their highest physical ability level. A possible extraneous variable could be that many of the participants were on sports teams and their level of fitness was higher, therefore they did not rate their work-out time as physically intensive. Conversely, some of these athletes had already participated in practice so instead of a warm-up, this exercise was more of a cool-down, also making their ratings lower. Another extraneous variable was that both Groups A and B (enhance and detract) ran at the same time, in the same gym, and completed their questionnaires together. These extraneous variables could have led to diffusion of information. One incident that did occur in the second trial was that a few participants switched numbers to be in the same groups as their friends. This affected the random assignment to groups. Group C was the first group to be studied. The first day had many obstacles and confusions involved that could have led to minor unwanted outside influences. Complications included the music not playing while participants entered the gym and professors confusing the students by interjecting different instructions than the researchers. However, by the second study day, the complications were rectified and the study proceeded with no mishaps. This study has great practical significance because we found that people were persuaded by the instructions they were given and that people do have innate biases. People’s perceptions affect their performance, and yet, their preconceived notions before their perceptions are manipulated are still very strong. Further studies on less popular and used material might yield better results in manipulating the subjects’ perception. Longer amounts of exposure to manipulation (i.e. videos, speeches etc.) before the experiment would be a further study of interest. It would also be intriguing to conduct more research on music and its effects. In industrial settings, the perceived effects of music could have profound effects as a way of manipulating the environment to encourage greater work output for employees. While our detract group did not statistically appear to believe what we told them, their actions belied that belief as they ran more laps and rated the exercise as more intense. Our control group seemed to have an innate perception that music would affect their exercise without being told anything as they had the highest mean scores of music affecting them. The enhance group did believe that the music would affect their performance. Therefore, in conclusion, we found that there is a higher perception of music affecting exercise if the group is told that the music will affect them.

Cromartie, F., & Matesic, B. (2002). Effects music has on lap pace, heart rate, and perceived exertion rate. The Sport Journal, 5. Retrieved Dec 2, 2004, from http://www.thesportjournal.org/2002Journal/Vol5- No1/music.htm. Despres, G., Gauzins, M., & Huguet P. (2004). Stereotype threat undermines intellectual performance by triggering a disruptive mental load. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(6), 721-731. Retrieved Dec 03, 2004, from PsycINFO database.Finnigan, F., & Millar, K., (1998). Verbal expectancies and performance after alcohol. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 23(4), 489-496. Retrieved Dec 3, 2004, from PsycINFO database. Lowin, A., & Epstein, G. (1965). Does expectancy determine performance? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1(3), 248-255. Retrieved Dec 03, 2004, from PsycINFO database.Phillips, J. C., & Tokar, D. M. (2004). Influencing client expectations about career counseling using a videotaped intervention career development quarterly, 52(4), 309-322. Retrieved Dec 04, 2004, from PsycINFO database.University of Nevada (graduate students of Reynolds School of Journalism). (1999). Priming. Retrieved Dec. 04, 2004, from http://www.jour.unr.edu/greer/J711/J711.priming.html.

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D


Submitted 2/18/2005 1:25:24 PM
Last Edited 2/18/2005 1:49:46 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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