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Preferred Music Produces Conscious Relaxation and Physiological Ambiguity

Faculty Supervisor:
Dwight Krehbiel
Year of Project Completion:
Emma Lewis


Does individual preference influence the emotionally and physiologically relaxing effects of music? Nineteen undergraduate students (11 males, mean age 19.53 years) selected a relaxing song from their own collections, and listened to this music along with Rachmaninoff’s Prelude #5 in G Major, and a control period of silence. While listening, participants continuously rated their emotions in a 2-dimensional emotion space (activation on the vertical axis, pleasantness on the horizontal axis) within a LabVIEW virtual instrument. Participants also rated their mood (in pleasantness and activation) after each condition using the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) (Bradley & Lang, 1994). Continuous physiological measures of galvanic skin response (GSR), corrugator electromyograph (EMG), heart rate, and skin temperature were recorded using an ActiveTwo system of electrodes and computer software. Continuous reports of pleasantness were higher for subject-chosen music (p = 0.002) and activation was lowest for silence (p = 0.009). There were different patterns of change through the conditions in GSR (p = 0.028) and heart rate (p = 0.003). EMG was lowest for subject-chosen music (p = 0.050) and skin temperature was lowest for subject-chosen music (p < 0.001). Differences in pleasantness and EMG between the 2 music conditions were influenced by participants’ years of participation in musical groups, and mood measured by SAM was different after each condition (p < 0.001) in both pleasantness and activation. These results suggest that while conscious response to the music indicates a more relaxing effect of subject-chosen music, physiological effects indicate both relaxing and arousing effects.

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