15 Change your mood: Listen to your favorite music!

Based on Research by Petr Janata, Ph.D., Frederick S. Barrett.  Psychology Science Minute written by Sarah W. Arnett, Psy.D.

Psychology Science Minute brought to you by the School of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.

Most of us remember the song that was playing on our first date, first kiss, and most painful break up. In fact, hearing a song from our past instantly transports us back in time to some of our most emotionally charged memories. Music has a much bigger impact on our mood than most of us realize.

Can music alter our mood states? Yes, upbeat music is likely to give us a positive mood just as somber music can make us sad.2,3,5,6  In addition, recognition of a positive song triggers an associative network of memories laden with emotions implicating the potential to positively impact our mood.1

Psychologists have found that when we listen to a song that is nostalgic, it elicits mood states and experiences similar to those experienced with the memory associated with the song. 1 Research indicates that listening to our favorite songs may improve our mood states as well as improve our performance with high cognitive demand activities.4,6  The most notable finding is that it does not require conscious effort to alter your mood, you simply have to play one of your favorite songs.1,3,5.

So the next time you find yourself feeling down just press “play” for your favorite song!

That’s your Florida Tech Psychology Science Minute, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.


1Barrett, F., Grimm, K., Robins, R., Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., & Janata, P. (2010). Music-Evoked Nostalgia: Affect, Memory, and Personality. Emotion, Vol. 10, No. 3, 390–403.

2Clark, D. M. (1983). On the induction of depressed mood in the laboratory: Evaluation and comparison of the Velten and musical procedures. Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 5, 27-4

3Davis, C. (2009). Music And Its Effects On Mood And Affective Experience. Dissertation. Long Island, New York: Adelphi University.

4Lesiuk,T. (2010). The Effect of Preferred Music on Mood and Performance in a High-Cognitive Demand Occupation. Journal of Music Therapy, XLVII (2), 2010, 137-154.

5Martina T. Mitterschiffthaler, Cynthia H.Y. Fu, Jeffrey A. Dalton, Christopher M. Andrew, and Steven C.R. Williams (2007). A Functional MRI Study of Happy and Sad Affective States Induced by Classical Music. Human Brain Mapping 28:1150–1162.

6Sutherland, G., Newman, B., & Rachman, S. (1982). Experimental investigation of the relations between mood and intrusive unwanted cognitions. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 55, 127-138.

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