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The Psychology of Music


Music is probably the most abstract and difficult to understand the sort of art. For centuries scholars have been trying to explain the purpose of listening to music, creating it, and the way it can impact a human mind. Schäfer, Sedlmeier, Städtler, and Huron state that the common aim of listening to music is to “regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness” (2013, p. 1). Despite the numerous and often contradictory findings regarding the phenomenon of music, there are no doubts about the powerful connection it has with a human mind, emotions, feelings, and actions.

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Music and Psychological Mechanisms

The music is not just a collection of random notes, but a story told in universally understood language. According to scientific research, music is believed to connect people to their personal past experiences and, thus, to manipulate peoples’ emotions and feelings. Listeners are not only able to percept the aesthetics of the musical composition but understand its deeper meaning.

The compositions people add to their tracklists, and the musicians they prefer may tell a lot about how their minds function. Taste in music often depends on such factors as age, gender, temperament, and views on life. The genres people favor usually reflect appropriate psychological behavior and predispositions. In her article for Medical Daily, Lizette Borreli (2015) describes the study, according to which the preferences of blues, jazz, and folk are more typical for open-minded and adventurous individuals. At the same time, people admiring pop, electronic, and dance music is usually friendly and extroverted (Borreli, 2015, para. 3).

Impact on learning and productivity

Numerous studies have discovered the effect the music might have on learning abilities and work performance. One of the most famous theories on that matter regarded as a so-called ‘Mozart effect” (Lesiuk, 2005, p. 177). The scientists noticed the positive impact of this particular composer on thinking and creativity. Teachers often practiced playing classical music in a classroom during the exams and recommended implementing such an approach nationwide.

Lesiuk (2005) investigated the influence of listening to music at the workplace among computer system developers. She states that computer designers have to be creative and produce the work that is innovative and applicable at the same time. They work under pressure and often depend on a particular mood and inspiration. The individuals that felt optimistic and calm after listening to certain tunes processed the information faster and showed better productivity (Lesiuk, 2005). Music often helps people to cope with stressful situations at work, reduce the anxiety and think more clearly. The others, on the other hand, listen to the energetic music to create a positive environment in the office and increase the speed of task performance. Professional athletes claim that music makes them feel stronger and more confident, and achieve higher results during training and competitions.

However, individual aspects and certain criteria should be considered before implementing the idea of music at a workplace. Thompson, Schellenberg, and Letnic (2012) argue that sometimes unsuitable music can do more harm to the productivity and concentration of the team. The scholars discovered that loud and fast music tends to “disrupt reading comprehension” (Thompson et al., 2012, p. 1). In general, however, the scientists agree that an appropriately selected musical compositions stimulate the positive team spirit and increase the creativity.


People listen and write music due to the number of reasons, most of which are still unclear to the scientists. However, the deep connection between music and human psychological mechanisms was noticed many centuries ago. Musical preferences reveal a lot about peoples’ personalities and life experiences. There is a lot to be discovered about the way music communicates to the human brain, but it is apparent that it has a powerful impact on learning capabilities, creativity, and productivity of an individual.

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Borreli, L. (2015). The psychology of music choice: cognitive thinking influences preference for music genre via empathy. Medical Daily. Web.

Lesiuk, T. (2005). The effect of music listening on work performance. Psychology of Music, 33(2), 173-191.

Schäfer, T., Sedlmeier, P., Städtler, C., & Huron, D. (2013). The psychological functions of music listening. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 511, 1-33.

Thompson, W. F., Schellenberg, E. G., & Letnic, A. K. (2012). Fast and loud background music disrupts reading comprehension. Psychology of Music, 40(6), 700-708.

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