Music of any kind usually improves mood of college students

October 15, 2003

College students usually find themselves in a better mood after listening to music, regardless of whether it is rock or classical, according to a Penn State study.

"Not only did our sample of students report more positive emotions after listening to music, but their already positive emotions were intensified by listening to music," says Dr. Valerie N. Stratton, associate professor of psychology at Penn State's Altoona Campus.

Each of the positive moods listed in the Penn State survey (i.e. optimistic, joyful, friendly, relaxed and calm) showed an increase after periods of listening to music. At the same time, each of the negative moods (e.g. pessimistic, sad) showed a decrease, the one exception being fearful, which stayed the same.

"Every positive mood except loving rose in intensity after episodes of listening to music," notes Dr. Annette H. Zalanowski, associate professor of music at Penn State's Altoona Campus. "Meanwhile, most of the negative moods showed a drop in frequency, except sad, hateful and aggressive, which either stayed the same or increased slightly."

Most students listened to music while doing something else, the most common activities being studying, driving, dressing and socializing, she adds.

Stratton and Zalanowski are authors of the paper, "Daily Music Listening Habits in College Students: Related Moods and Activities," published recently in the journal Psychology and Education/An Interdisciplinary Journal. The Penn State researchers used two samples of college students totaling 47, including 25 music majors.

The study participants kept a diary for 14 days, during which they logged the amount of time they listened to music, the kinds of music they listened to, their moods before and after each episode of listening, and their activities while listening to music.

The categories of music were hard rock, soft rock, heavy metal, modern rock, oldies, dance/pop, country/western, rhythm & blues/soul, jazz, easy listening, rap, classical and other.

Stratton says, "The non-music majors reported listening to music for an average of 161.4 minutes per day while the music majors reported 117.7 minutes of listening. A total of 905 episodes of listening to music were reported by the non-music majors and 819 by the music majors.

"Overwhelmingly, the most commonly listened-to style of music was rock, comprised of hard rock, heavy metal and modern rock," she notes. "Classical and jazz were the next preferred styles for the music majors, but were quite rarely listened to by the non-music majors, who chose country and soft rock after rock."

Rock was the music of choice for both groups whatever the environment, for example exercise clubs and dining halls, Stratton says. Music majors listened to a larger diversity of music, preferring classical when studying, soft rock and easy listening while relaxing and performing chores, and jazz and blues when exercising.

Penn State

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