The Effect Music Has On You

I love music. I put my headphones in any chance I get and in fact, I would even say that my least favorite parts of my day include when I have to take my headphones out for a class or any other reason. There’s just something about music that relaxes me and the stories that artists are able to tell through music are empowering. There’s a song for your every mood, for every different taste, and for different types of people. It’s a universal language that everyone can relate to and even when it’s in a different language, you can enjoy it. So, what is it about music that compels lovers of music to feel the way they do?


In trying to satisfy my interest in why music effects people so much, I came across research done that concluded through a meta-analysis that experiments that seek to find a link between people’s responses and music, always fail to understand why music had the effect it had (fail to find a mechanism) (see x). To avoid this failure, this experiment tackles the question with a different approach. The scientists took a song and manipulated it so that it would evoke 4 different mechanisms from people; brain stem reflex, emotional contagion, episodic memory, and musical expectancy (see x). They then made 20 people (half men, half women) listen to it and rate how it made them feel on a scale of 12. (x)

To understand the study, you have to understand the mechanisms being measured. Brain stem reflex in this experiment refers to the acoustic part of the music that shows something important, that needs consideration has occurred (see x). Emotional contagion concerns when the participant feels like the music they heard is how they actually feel inside (see x). Episodic memory occurs when the person listening feels as though the music reflects something that has happened in their life (see x). Lastly, musical expectancy happens when the music either meets or contradicts the listener’s expectations of the rest of the song as they’re listening. (x)


screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-59-17-pmThe results are shown by the graphs to the left. Just as the scientists had predicted each mechanism evoked the emotions they thought it would (brain stem evoked surprise, emotional contagion evoked sadness, episodic memory evoked happiness, and musical expectancy evoked irritation) (see x). By measuring third variables, the researchers were also able to conclude that the participants were actually experiencing screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-59-30-pmemotions rather than just mimicking the emotions they heard in the music (see x). This means that when listening to music, people don’t just listen but they feel. Music actually evokes emotions out of people that they may not have felt before listening to the song. (x)



All in all, the results that the experiment produced reflected what I thought it would. When hearing slower parts of the song people were more likely to be sad and when listening to more upbeat parts of the song they were happier. It is these beats and tempos that cause us to feel the way we feel. These are things you would normally expect. Although, one flaw would be that only 20 people were used in the experiment, all of which had some type of experience with music.


7 thoughts on “The Effect Music Has On You

  1. Pengji Wei

    Hello Celine. Great article. I agree with you on the statement that”people don’t just listen music, but they feel the music.” Just like you, I am also crazy about the music. Especially when I am doing the homework, because music can help keep me focus and help me relaxed and let me think deeper. Also I always listen piano music when I am trying sleep. Because after I put on my headphone, I found there is no noise but music around me. And sometimes I did not even heard the that piano music I am hearing before, and this could evoke me some emotions. Like you said in the blog. I think many of us are always listening music before they go to bed, but why? Is there something music can help us sleep better at night? Here is website that I found about why music can help people sleep better.

  2. Trevor Dennehy

    Music is a large part of a lot of people’s lives, including mine. I find that without music, especially the right music, I am not as focused while doing my work. The wrong music can completely distract me though. I found an article that links to several studies about music for productivity, and reading through them, I think that two of them seem more accurate for me than the others. The first being the one about up-temp music. While working on my blogs, I’ve been listening to a lot of punk rock, because of its fast, up-tempo nature. The other that from experience, definitely works for me is the one about songs you don’t care about, or in my case, ones I haven’t heard before. If I am listening to an album I’ve heard many times, I find myself paying attention to the lyrics and sometimes singing along, rather than doing my work, which is a problem. With music I haven’t heard before, I don’t need to really pay attention, because it just sort of washes over me and provides a mood to work in.

  3. Wesley Scott Alexander

    I loved this post as I also love music and listen to it all the time, whether its walking to class, at the gym, or just casual listening. I wanted to research the effect that music has on our moods, so I actually wrote one of my blog posts on how music can affect our mood. If you’re interested in learning more about this you can check it out here.

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