Physiological and Psychological Effects of Music

Sarah Ann Stevenson

Abstract


The current research project investigates the relationship between music, emotions, and nervous system activity. Participants (N=92) listened to audio recordings of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and Satie’s "Gymnopédie No. 1" as Biopac software recorded heart rate, respiration, and skin conductance; participants then completed a survey to rate music-evoked emotions.  Event count and sympathetic nerve response indicated that there was more sympathetic activity during "The Rite of Spring," although there was a lower sustained skin conductance level.  Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and vagal nerve response indicated that there was more parasympathetic activity during "Gymnopédie No. 1."  Heart rate indicated that there was a higher level of overall activity during "The Rite of Spring."  On the survey, emotions of higher arousal were rated more strongly during the first song, while calming emotions were stronger during the second.  Overall, the results indicate that there was a more aroused response in terms of physiological and psychological activity during the more musically complicated song, “The Rite of Spring.” This study suggests that listening to music can elicit a physiological and psychological response in the body, aligning with current research.


Keywords


music, emotions, nervous system activity, psychology, physiology, brain

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