Study finds the type of music you listen to can impact your way of thinking

Shutterstock

The type of music you play generally affects your mood. People have individual tastes for different situations — from the gym, where people who are exercising tend to listen to more upbeat music, to someone who’s working on a project that requires concentration. Tastes can vary from person-to-person on the specific situation, but certain types of genres can dictate your thoughts, according to new research.

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that playing heroic music can give empowering or motivating thoughts while listening to sadder music can make you more relaxed or even drive depressive thoughts.

The study’s lead author Tobias Bashevkin from the University of Bergen told PsyPost he was interested in exploring how music affects thought.

“While we know some about how music influences our emotions, we know less about how music affects thought. Our idea was that thoughts would be more positive and that people would feel more motivated to act when listening to heroic music, as compared to sad music,” Bashevkin said. “We find this interesting as it could have implications for the treatment of individuals with depression but also contribute to facilitating constructive, motivated, and positive thoughts in healthy populations.”

Whistle a happy tune

Researchers had more than 60 participants listen to excerpts of music that sounded heroic and sad that was matched in tempo, loudness, and orchestration. Through six separate trials, participants answered a questionnaire designed to access their mind-wandering and tell researchers what their thoughts were.

The results found that different music evoked different emotions.

“While previous research has supported music as a strong modulator of emotion, our study uncovered that music also influences the content of thoughts. We found thoughts to be more positive, active, motivated, and constructive when listening to heroic music,” Bashevkin said.

Bashevkin explained that words used by participants proved that heroic music leads to more positive thoughts as listening to sad music yields a different feeling.

He added, “This could indicate that while people with negative affect and thought prefer sad music, they might do better with more positive music like heroic music.”

The study was conducted by Stefan Koelsch, professor at the University of Bergen, Tobias Bashevkin, Joakim Kristensen, Jonas Tvedt, and Sebastian Jentschke.