It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that music can alter your mood. But that doesn’t stop scientists and psychologists from conducting research to prove that music has a legitimate effect on the brain’s chemistry, how a person feels and how they may subsequently behave.
Music and emotion have strong connections
Have you ever listened to a lively beat to try to lift your spirits or make you more productive at work? What about listening to a hard rock or heavy metal song if you’ve just been dumped or a friend or family member has made you angry? The effect can work in reverse, as well: The type of music you prefer to listen to is affected by the emotional state you’re currently in.
Music actually has a big impact on productivity. For instance, baroque music has been shown to induce enzymes in the brain, promote feelings of well-being and improve your ability to focus.
Studies demonstrate music’s impact on ability to learn
Gary Hill, the director of bands at Arizona State University, started studying oxytocin through a research grant back in 2008. This research, titled “Oxytocin: Fueling Music’s Power in Human Emotions, Memory and Restoration,” clearly shows a correlation between music and positive moods.
Likewise, a 2010 study published in the UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research XIII found that music makes people friendlier—or, in clinical terms, “improves helping behaviors.” And there was a clear association between music and mood. In particular, participants exposed to prosocial lyrics and uplifting music conditions became more positive and less negative. In the study group exposed to antisocial lyrics and annoying music conditions experienced the opposite effect on mood.
Music not fully embraced by all employers
Despite the proven effects on productivity, many employers haven’t fully embraced the influence music could have on the bottom line. Some companies don’t permit listening to music at all on the job. Others permit employees to listen to whatever music they choose, provided they use headphones to avoid disturbing other employees.
Today’s music platforms make it more possible for employees to choose their own music. Streaming-audio programs and mp3-downloading platforms, such as Grooveshark and Spotify, let you listen to music that suits your own taste instead of suffering through the 80s soft rock the department secretary prefers.
Brands capitalize on addictive sounds
Music and specific sounds can actually be addicting, according to Forbes magazine. And that’s a psychological phenomenon that brands take advantage of. How many commercial jingles can you hum off the top of your head? The strong associations our brains make with sounds can create positive or negative associations—depending on the type of music—that carry over to the products being advertised.
In fact, numerous commercial brands over the past 20 years are so addicting and have become so recognizable that they’re among the 10 most addictive sounds in the world. Brands like McDonald’s, MTV and State Farm Insurance are among those which have accomplished this feat.
Music changes the way we feel and alters the way we perceive the world
The mood-altering ability of music is so powerful that in addition to affecting our moods, it can also change the way we perceive the world. If you’re listening to upbeat, happy music, you’re more likely to recognize happy faces, for example.
But the type of music you’re listening to doesn’t always matter. If you’re listening to music you enjoy, your mood is likely to improve—whether it’s hard rock, heavy metal, new age, easy listening or even classical tunes. If you’re already experiencing positive vibes, enjoyable music will strengthen those emotions. And if you’re feeling down and out, listening to music you enjoy will decrease those negative feelings and increase positive emotions.
Music is so powerful, it can impact many areas of your life: your work, your social life, your moods and emotions, and even how strongly you embrace a brand. With music programs like Pandora and and iTunes, it’s more convenient than ever to listen to your favorite music whether you’re at work, in the car or taking a job.