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Effects of Music on Mood in Adolescence

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A large amount of teenagers in today’s age demonstrate a popular liking towards music for a variety of reasons. From bubblegum pop to heavy metal, music is known to be a basis of expression and identity for many. Several studies and research conducted over the years have supported the claim that music does take a toll on the emotional responses of people, identifying what draws people to enjoy music as much as they do. Coping mechanisms come into play when emotion and mood is discussed, as one can use music to aid sadness over a heartbreak, or use it to calm their stress after a bad day at work.

Music is known to be a frequent mood improver according to several studies and a common destressor among a large demographic of people. Listening to music serves as an efficient method to match, improve, or potential worsen one’s mood, making it possible to feel happier, sadder, or cure boredom. Its uses vary, along with its effects on emotion and mood. The research question this academic paper will be addressing is what are the effects of listening to music on the emotions and moods of adolescents? This study will be based off of previous studies done on the effects of music on people, but will solely focus on the demographic of adolescents due to the complexity of emotions and moods that they demonstrate. The purpose of this study is to investigate and evaluate the different ways in which music can take a toll on the emotions and moods in adolescents, and evaluate the effectiveness and frequency of listening to music as a coping mechanism.

Although similar studies have been conducted several times over the years, researchers have yet to look into the particular effects of music on adolescents. Conclusions and discussions have been made over the general population; therefore, this study is needed to extend research into why music is known as a common ground to adjust emotions and moods in teenagers, and how their results may differ from the rest of the population. This study will also provide insight into the use of listening to music as a common coping mechanism for stress in teenagers and provide reasoning as to why that may be. In a 2013 study conducted by Thomas Schafer for the journal Frontiers in psychology[a], it was concluded that people listen to music to drive arousal and mood regulation rather than for emotional use or social relatedness (Schäfer, Sedlmeier, et. al). Arousal and mood regulation bring more positive feeling to a person, while social relatedness could be identified as using music to unite people at a party and liven up the scene.

Emotions and mood are concepts that are often used interchangeably, and although they are stimulated in a similar way, they are distinct in detail. Emotion is defined to be an intense, short-term feeling that is triggered or stimulated by an environment or stressor, while mood is defined to be more long-term and less intense than emotions. Mood does not have to have a direct stimulator. Emotion can be experienced through the cause of an event, conversation, watching films, listening to music, and more. Along with these factors, it is also known that traumatic experiences could also trigger emotional responses in people. A series of complex processes take place in the brain when emotion is triggered. The orbitofrontal cortex is the part that is primarily associated with emotional processing, which lays in the prefrontal cortex. A study conducted at Cornell University concluded that emotion is expressed due to the presence of a unique ‘code’ generated by the brain (read as a neural valence meter) in which the leaning of a population of neurons in one direction equates a positive feeling, and leaning in the other direction equates a negative feeling or emotion (Junichi Chikazoe, et al.). Emotions are thought about on a broader spectrum that do not simply fit the “positive” or “negative” boxes they are put into. According to Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions graphic, the eight basic emotions are said to be: fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, trust, and anticipation. Known as being complex, emotional responses in humans vary based on their distinct environments and experiences. One may experience a moment of excitement when waiting to open a birthday present. Emotions are triggered through the reaction of the brain to certain instances such as these.

Mood demonstrates a similar idea, but maintains a lasting effect on the individual experiencing the mood, instead of it only being prevalent for the duration of a song or immediately after listening. Under the cerebrum of the brain, mood is created in the limbic system; with the presence of neurotransmitters and receptors such as dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine, mood is expressed in humans, as well as contributing to the development of mood and other brain disorders (Nutt, DJ; 2008). This feeling could last from a few minutes to days and weeks on-end, not having a specific time of duration on the individual. One can feel sad or upset due to the death of a loved one for days, and that would be described as a mood, compared to an emotion.

Music attains the potential to ta toll on both of these factors. The idea that music evokes emotions has been supported by various studies, such as in a study conducted by researchers conducted by researchers at the National Academy of Science U.S.A., where it was found that in patients who were listening to a song of their choice, blood flow increased in areas of the brain that were associated with reward/motivation, emotion, and arousal, such as the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex (Blood, J. Anne, [b]et. al). Humans have used music to produce euphoria-induced experiences in the brain, where “happy” neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are triggered and increased. This can lead to emotions dealing with excitement, and moods such as contentment. Research done at the University of Missouri found that the more people listened to upbeat music (rather than more calm, somber music), the more their moods positively improved (Ferguson, Yuna[c]).

Music therapy is a product of this evidence. Defined by the American Music Therapy Association[d], music therapy is the “clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” For people with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, music therapy is used to………. “When instrument playing is involved, both auditory and tactile stimulation help produce a state of mental relaxation.[e]”

Researchers from University of Jyvaskyla, Jonna K. Vuoskoski,Tuomas Eerola, William F. Thompson, and Doris McIlwain from Macquarie University, conducted an experiment that would investigate the correlation between sad music and the emotional responses of humans. In addition, the connection between responses and personality traits were observed and tested with a survey that would organize participants in groups based on their personality traits. The experimental method used consisted of 148 participants listening 16 excerpts of sad songs. recorded that sadness seemed to be considered a pleasant emotion, due to listeners being able to empathize with the “sadness” in the song. The results led to the conclusions that “aesthetic appreciation” and “empathetic engagement” had a strong involvement in the pleasant emotional responses from sad music.

The purpose of this study [f]was to investigate the effects of listening to music on the curricular activities of students ages 17-19 or while they were studying. The method dealt with a questionnaire and experiment which would analyze the effects and answers from the students themselves. The questionnaire would ask about the preferences of listening to music or not listening to music while they were studying. The students were then grouped into two parts in which only students who preferred listening to music whilst studying continued with the study. The students were then asked to respond to four questions with the correct answer while they were listening to different music types. The researchers observed the study and found that background music reduced the stress levels of students, resulting in higher scores or more correct answers. Most students were also found to have a positive perception towards music, although most did not listen to music all the time while studying.

The previous study would lead to the idea that music lowers levels of stress in the adolescents and young adults that were being studied. This could suggest that music helps reduce stress levels in adolescents, which would be reasoning as to why it serves as an occasional coping mechanism for stress.

This journal [g][h]introduces the basis of coping mechanisms and strategies for stress, categorizing the types into three categories: emotion-oriented, problem-oriented, and avoidance or disengagement coping style. This study investigates what coping style is most used out of the three categories, also analyzing trends in the results based on gender. It also explains how the claim that music is able to reduce physiological and psychological stress is backed up by several studies, giving an initiative to this study in particular. The method had 207 participant students from Arizona State University answer a questionnaire with a likert scale. They were asked about how often they had been experiencing stress, situations in which they listen to music, and listening frequency. The results concluded that emotion-oriented coping style was most used across both genders, but emotion-oriented was most used by women, whereas most men used problem-oriented.

Approximately 150-300 participants will be needed in order to provide a broad enough range of data to develop conclusions on a general population of teenagers. Participants would range from ages 14-19, considering the early to late stages of high school, and early stages of college. Participants were retrieved by convenience in the beginning, friends were asked to participate and send the survey to their other friends. Adolescents were also encouraged to take the survey from links to it on social media, such as Instagram and Facebook. Participants range from all different races and ethnicities, creating a wide variation of data and results to analyze any trends in the data.

An online, experimental survey was conducted to dictate the effects on emotion and mood of adolescents before and after listening to a song of their choice. Teenagers across different high schools in Cobb County were asked to participate in the survey, ideally ranging from 150-300 participants. The initial start of the survey asked basic demographic questions, identifying the participant’s gender, ethnicity, and age in order to investigate potential trends in responses throughout the entire survey and interpret results. The final questions of the initial information assessed music listening frequency as a means to observe the possibility of music listening acting as a frequent coping mechanism for stress, asking students how often they listened to music on a regular basis.

A confounding variable that was identified was that of there being the wandering emotional effects of music listened to immediately before taking the survey. If a participant had listened to music right before taking the survey, it could be possible that the results in Part One would have already been affected by music in the same way they were supposed to be affected in Part Two. The results of the participant would not be documented as ‘altered’ due to the fact that they had been altered before taking the survey. To prevent this confounding variable from taking an effect on the results, it was addressed in the instructions at the beginning in the survey. It was instructed participants to refrain from taking the survey for another 30 minutes if they had listened to music in the 30 minutes prior to taking the survey.

In Part One of the survey, teenagers were asked to rate, on a scale of 1-4, how much they related to the emotion listed in the question at that exact moment, with no presence of music in their surroundings. The emotions listed were based off of the BMIS (Brief Mood Introspection Scale) measurement tool for mood, using a simplified Likert scale to assess the participants’ relatedness to the emotion listed, 1 equating ‘Definitely do not feel’, and 4 equating ‘Definitely feel’(Mayer, J.D., 1988). Questions were formatted simply, as “I feel happy” and “I feel sad.” Students would rate how much they identified their current emotions in accordance to the emotion listed based of the 16 emotions off the Brief Mood Introspection Scale. Part One will be used to analyze the participants’ initial emotions before, in order to provide a baseline for comparison with Part Two.

Part Two will introduce the musical aspect of the survey, where participants will be able to listen to a song of their choice of any genre or perceived emotion/mood, such as listening to a sad song, happy song, angry song, etc. They will be allowed to listen to the song once, with either headphones or their phone speaker/regular speaker. It is important to note that the type of genre of music will not be identified nor considered in the results, although the perceived emotion/mood of the song will be. Participants will also be allowed to dance or sing-along, demonstrating any regular actions they would partake in when listening to music. After listening, participants will commence to answer the same set of questions from Part One, to identify any alterations in their emotions after listening to a song.

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The purpose[i] of this research was to investigate the effects of music on people through their common claims that music has a big impact on their moods and behaviors. They also try to investigate whether listening to classical or pop music will put people into more positive moods. There was a number of 110 volunteers that would participate in the study where questionnaires would be distributed. The type of questionnaire used was close-ended where the only responses participants could choose were either “yes” or “no”. A total of twelve questions were asked such as “happy music makes you happy” and “music can help cope with sadness”. The research ultimately concluded that music left an overwhelmingly positive effect on listeners, and that music was used to relax them. It is also suggested that music was used to improve or enhance wellbeing.

In the final part of the survey, Part Three, participants will be asked questions about general alterations in their mood that they may identify after listening to music. They will also be asked about reasons as to why they listen to music, including using it as a method to improve or positively impact their moods. This goes into the use of music as a potential coping mechanism for any negative emotions a human may face, such as stress or sadness, and will be used investigate any potential connection between the results in the emotional responses and the participants’ listening frequency. Participants will also be asked about the type of song that they listened to or its perceived mood (sad song, happy song, etc.) for the purposes of identifying trends in responses that dealt with emotions. For further analytical purposes, participants will also be asked to list the specific song that they listened to in order to better identify the perceived mood of the song, along with the artist in order to further specify. For the final question, participants will be asked about the main reason as to why they choose to listen to music. This question, being open-ended, will provide further information to form potential reasoning as to why music is used as a frequent coping-mechanism among teens.

This would provide average shifts in emotion for around 46 participants. The same thing would be done with the results in Part Two of the survey. The results were to be organized into bar graphs, two graphs from Part One and two graphs from Part Two for comparison in mood shift and identify any trends.

The ethical considerations needed would be those of asking participants about their current emotions and moods, which may end up upsetting people who do not like being asked about their emotions. Students will not be asked to provide any information on their current status of mental health or any other private concerns, so no parental consent form will need to be distributed amongst the participants. The confidentiality of the survey will be protected by the fact that the survey will be anonymous, only the researcher will be able to interpret the data and results from the participants.

Researchers Ai Kawakami and Kiyoshi Furukawa from Tokyo University of the Arts and Kazuo Okanoya from The University of Tokyo conducted research on why people listen to sad music through a psychological approach. The method used was to present various musical excerpts of sd songs to an approximate number of 25 women and 19 men and a list of perceived emotions based on the songs. The questionnaires were presented on a scale of pleasantness and unpleasantness based on the excerpt. In the context of art, such as music, sadness does not correlate to unpleasantness based on the results from the experiment. The general proposition of this paper is to demonstrate and explain the vicarious sadness experienced from sad music, rather than actual sadness based on real life situations.

Several studies will demonstrate that music does have an impact on moods of all age ranges and backgrounds. Because of the research done and analyzed in advance, it would be reasonable to assume that after the study is conducted, the music that the adolescent participants will have listened to will have a positive effect on participants, despite the type of song or perceived emotion they will have listened to. If a person would choose to listen to a sad song, the song would still be able to positively impact the emotions of the participant. Overall, music would have pushed a positive feeling among those who listened to their song of choice as stated in the instructions in Part Two of the survey. Most adolescents will have experienced a shift in emotion after listening, and may result into further explaining why adolescents listen to music frequently. If a participant was experiencing negative emotions prior to listening, they would have at least improved their mood to a certain extent as a result. Music will have also lowered levels of stress and negative emotions, this could go into a potential reasoning as to why teenagers often use music to cope with traumatic events, stress, or even a bad day.

The researcher also hypothesized that the demographics of white, black, and Latinos were the most susceptible to higher levels of positive shift in their moods, considering the perceived close connection to music in their cultures. Asian/Pacific Islanders would be more likely to experience lower levels of positive mood change, considering different cultural aspects towards music.

The limitations of this study include the confounding variable discussed earlier in the paper. The confounding variable was that of the wandering effects of music on the mood of the participant before taking Part Two of the survey. Although this variable was addressed in the beginning of the survey in the instructions section, it is possible that participants could have ignored the instruction to wait 30 minutes before taking the survey, had they listened to music in the previous 30 minutes. This could ultimately lead to results that do not represent the true effects of music on the mood of the participants, resulting in unreliable data.

Another limitation of this study could be the lack of exposure to other high schools around Georgia, the country, or internationally. The survey could have had more varied results as different areas and cultures portray different music listening habits. Exposure of the survey was limited to few outlets (such as social media and other distributors) and fewer volunteers willing to take the survey.

Participants could have rushed through Parts One and Two, where they did not truly think about what they were feeling at that moment just to get through the survey quickly. This could make the results unreliable.

A large percentage of participants were also high school juniors, which was the easiest demographic to reach by convenience. The sample, planning to represent American high schoolers

The implication this study dealt with was that of the difficulty in distributing the survey to a wide range of people, at the start, friends were asked to take the survey and distribute it by convenience. The friends and the acquaintances of the researcher were also asked to distribute the survey amongst themselves. The survey was shared on Facebook but did not reach a sufficient amount of people as expected.

The researcher made the observation that music the participant listened to did increase levels of positive mood, as stated in the hypothesis. With a number of 45 participants, approximately 17.8% were white, 20% were of Latino descent, 20% were Asian or Pacific Islander, and 24.4% were black. The rest were identified as Native Americans and of mixed race or ethnicities. Despite the genre of music that was listened to, the majority being pop, rap, and R&B, participants on average reported in increase in positive moods and a decrease in negative moods.

The calculations were done by grouping the 18 moods into two groups of 9: positive and negative emotions. Each emotion was averaged into blocks for females and males. T-tests were conducted on factors that were addressed by the hypothesis. The calculations reported a significant increase in positive emotions for both females and males (P < .05). There was also a significant decrease in negative emotions after listening to the song of choice (P < .05). These results came through despite the genre of music that participants listened to, and despite the perceived emotion that the songs were giving off. Participants who listened to sad or angry music reported increase in positive emotions as well. Females and males both experienced increase in positive and a decrease in negative, but females were shown to have demonstrated a stronger fluctuation or shift in emotions when it came to part Two of the survey.

34.8 percent of respondents identified their song genre as pop, correlating to a suggestion that pop music makes people happier or improves their mood since there was an increase in positive emotion. When asked the question “When listening to music of your choice, how does it affect your mood?” 82.6 percent of respondents claimed that music improved their mood, while only 2.2 percent claimed that music worsens their mood. 13 percent of respondents claimed that music matches their mood, supporting a suggestion that teenagers use music as a form of self-expression of emotions. 58.7 percent of the participants claimed that their chosen song portrayed “happy” or “lively” emotions. This could support a suggestion that happier music could lead to more positive emotions, as suggested by researcher Yuna Ferguson. The original hypothesis was supported with the results from the experimental survey.

The results of the experimental survey support a conclusion that the effect of music on the mood of adolescents shows improvements in mood rather than worsening mood. Music has been known to cheer people up, and the experimental survey showed that music does have that exact effect. The type of music listened to varied, but overall positive emotions such as feeling happy, lively, content, and loving did increase. Negative emotions such as feeling sad, gloomy, and grouchy did decrease meaning that music did improve emotions in teenagers sharply.

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Effects of Music on Mood in Adolescence. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“Effects of Music on Mood in Adolescence.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Effects of Music on Mood in Adolescence. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2023].
Effects of Music on Mood in Adolescence [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Dec 3]. Available from:
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