Music To Move The Soul: An Analysis on the Affects of Music in Specific Genres on University Students.

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Acknowledgements

Before starting this report on the affects of music on university student’s emotions/moods, I would like to acknowledge some people who have helped me through this project. There are many people who have helped with the success and construction of this report and the information that has been created and analysed for its purpose. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge Kate Bowles for the starting push into the project by providing the foundations for a good and successful research topic. I would also like to thank the teaching team of the BCM course, especially Stephanie Hanson for her expert advice and encouragement throughout the entire duration of the project. Secondly, I would like to take the time to thank all the participants of my survey, for taking the time out of their busy schedules to help generate information to fuel my research topic. I would also like to thank everyone in the BCM course, for the helpful feedback and advice on where to improve. Without the guidance from these individuals this report would have been deemed impossible.

Summary

The purpose of this research is to explore the issues surrounding the changing emotions that come through the course of listening and enjoying music. Therefore the foundation for this research was based around the question, do students believe that music in specific genres can affect their emotions, if so why? This report evolved from my curiosity and interest towards music and emotion within specific genres. This interest was sparked from the research conducted by Patrik N. Juslin and Daniel Västfjäll on the ‘Emotional responses to music: The need to consider underlying mechanisms’, forming around their theory that “musical stimuli can systematically influence the perceived emotional content in targeted visual stimuli” (Logeswaran and Bhattacharya, 2008). From this the aim of my report was to provide a foundation for a guideline regarding the affects of music on the emotions/moods of university students, creating a list of the more effective genres to listen to at specific parts of the day. This report aims to uncover, whether Australian University students believe music can affect their emotions, through the course of changing dynamics within their daily activities, such as; studying and going to the gym.

In order to gather this information, surveys were conducted to gain an insight into the average university student. The results found were then compared to research that had already been conducted by professionals to build and evaluate upon the findings surrounding this particular topic. This report demonstrates that analysis on the affects of music on university students is greatly influenced by that of musical genres, each having a different affect upon an individual; in terms of their emotions and so forth into their actions and perceptions, as discovered in secondary sources. The purpose of this research is to identify the relation music has on our emotions/moods, thus being able to create a guideline as to what genres of music are best to be heard at different points in your day, within different activities.

Methods

For this research to reach its full potential I had to make sure that the methods chosen would coincide with the aims of my project to produce the outcome I hypothesised. Therefore to collect my results and relate them back to my question I decided the best way to gather a substantial amount of information in a short period of time would be through an online survey.

Unfortunately, the strict guidelines given to us by the University of Wollongong meant that I had to adhere to the regulations set. This meant restricting my results to the students of the University of Wollongong, rather than Australian Universities in general. However, a narrow set of result meant I could cater my findings to one particular group of individuals.

The decision to conduct online surveys was done to accommodate the busy schedules of the typical university student. The online surveys also made it easier to collect and analysis each individual question asked, having a visual component to pinpoint exactly what was said by each individual participant, for this I received 29 responses. I found by conducting an online survey, it was not just effective for myself but effective in the long-term of this particular project. Smart surveys article on ’10 advantages of online surveys’ (2016), state that online surveys are ‘faster, cheaper, more accurate, quick to analyse, easy for participants to use, easy for researchers to use, easy to style and customise, more honest, more selective and more flexible’. Another reason for using surveys was to allow for both qualitative and quantitative analysis. By allowing for both sets of data, I would be able to gather a variety of responses that would give me an opportunity to further extend my theory towards music and its affect on emotions.

 

Findings:

Quantitative Analysis

Conclusions drawn from the foundation questions asked through quantitative data, exhibited the assumptions I had already illustrated in my mind. The question were answered as followed:

  • 2) Do you regularly listen to music?
  • 3) What genre of music to you regularly listen to?
  • 5) Do you listen to music while studying?
  • 6) Do you listen to music while working out?
  • 9) Do you think music affects your mood/emotion?

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Figure one outlines the first baseline question asked to establish how many participants actually listened to music. This result did not surprise me at all, as it was an outcome that I was expecting to receive. I would have been deeply surprised if the outcome was anything less than 100% of the participants who took the survey, said that they do not listen to music regularly.

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The response for question 3 was more varied than most of the other questions asked in the quantitative portion of the survey. I asked this question to create the foundation for furthering my theory, questioning if particular genres of music would affect individuals emotions. Thus being able to use the information in a guide to establish what type of music would be more beneficial to your mood at different times of the day. The most popular genre of music listened to was alternative music with 24% of the participants responding with this answer as their most regular genre to engage with. 20% of participants responded with their most listened to genres as being Pop or other genres that weren’t mentioned (i.e. K-Pop and other genres). I was unable to get a hold of all the responses that participants had selected “other” as I did not have the premium account on surveymonkey.

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Leading on from question 3, question 5 looked into furthering the depth of my research by creating an understanding of when people are most likely to listen to music. The main activities during a university student’s life are studying, working out and relaxing with friends or family. Eliminating the activity of relaxing, I wanted to find out how many people listened to music while they were studying and working out, as I believe that many emotions are felt during these particular activities. The response for this question was varied as well, however I thought there would be more people listening to music while studying, just through observation. However, only 62% said they do listen to music while studying whereas 37% stated that they did not listen to music while studying as they found it very distracting, this was made evident in the qualitative portion of the analysis.

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Question 6 follows on from question 5, findings out if the participants listened to music whilst working out. I found the results for this question surprising with only 3.45% of participants not listening to music while working out. I expected a few more participants stating that they didn’t listen to music while working out, for reason such as, working out with friends, this conclusion was made through observation and experience. However the majority of participants (96.55%) stated that they did listen to music while working out, as the fast beats or soulful style of the songs would motivate them more to go harder while at the gym or when working out at home. After receiving this response I realised that a lot of workouts released today are very much based around music to keep you motivated and keep your mood in check for a high intensity workout.

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Question 9 was the most important question in order to collectively analyse and process all the previous questions together and create an understanding towards my theory and research question. I was definitely surprised the most by this question, I truly believed that many of the participants in my survey would either be unsure or on the fence about whether music affects their emotions or moods. Instead my survey found that 79% of my participants believed music could or can affect their emotional stability, and only 10% of my participants were on the fence about whether music could have that much of an impact on them. I do believe that once my findings for this research are concluded, the participants who responded with ‘maybe’ may reevaluate their thoughts and opinions on the topic.

Qualitative Analysis

The qualitative portion of my survey, evaluated more in-depth on the subject matter of my research. These questions allowed for the participants to engage with their thoughts and opinions on whether music affected their emotions in general and during particular activities. The questions asked are as followed:

  • 1) What do you do to change your mood?
  • 4) Why do you listen to the specific genre mentioned above more often?
  • 7) What types of music do you listen to when studying?
  • 8) What types of music do you listen to while working out?
  • 10) Please explain your pervious answer

Each of these questions invited more of a discussion on the part of the participant to explore their reasons behind daily activities in relation to the musical genres they were listening to. When reviewing the answers collected I didn’t notice anything out of the blue; if I had a bigger pool of candidates I may have found an anomaly within some of the responses.

However, within these responses I got answers that were similar to my own. Many participants would listen to up-beat, fast genres of music while working out to keep their motivation and stamina up. Participants would also listen to softer and calmer forms of music while studying to help them concentrate on the task at hand. The genre of music listened to on a regular basis differed among each individual but in the collective for questions 7 and 8 the responses where much the same.

Question 10 also favoured in the same light, although responses differed from being unsure to explanations that looked at how happy, up beat or fun music would result in a happier and more energised mood/emotion, whereas a sad or slower song did the opposite. Many of the responses also saw it as taking music into their own hands, as to provoke a certain mood. One response stated;

“If I am listening to quiet music it is probably because I want to go to sleep or I am studying, if I am listening to rock or pop I am working out or just listening for fun.”

This indicates that it is possible for music to provoke a certain emotional stance or mood, through the beat, melody or harmony.


Reflection

This research topic has uncovered a fair bit about the affects of music on emotions towards university students; however, the research I conducted is only off theory as the results are still left inconclusive. However, when comparing to other research papers and other takes on the topic of music and emotion, further depth and analysis can be taken to grasp a greater understanding of how music can affect an individual’s emotional wellbeing.

Throughout this process my curiosity has grown enormously, making me wonder how this information could be relayed on to other research regarding music. One topic that comes to mind is music during pregnancy, once I had come to the conclusion that different musical styles could change the mood or behaviour of individuals, it got me thinking about pregnancy, and the ongoing notion that classical music is the best musical styling to play to your unborn child.

Partanen, Kujala, Tervaniemi and Huotilainen (2013) state that

‘Newborns seem to recognise familiar environmental sounds and melodies from the prenatal environment, discriminate between the native language of the mother and other languages, and recognise mother’s voice from voices of other females.’

Therefore the possibility that musical stimuli affecting newborns wellbeing could be possible. This could be to cause recognition to certain aspects of their lives or add meaning to cross-cultural values as stated by B. Arabin (2002). She goes on to say that;

‘Thereby different elements might be effective such as the pure effect of music but also the combination of a musical experience expressed by the mother’s voice-the voice that represents a salient stimulus throughout the prenatal period.’

However, though my curiosity and critical judgment on the topic are trying to come to a logical conclusion, without scientific evidence this is all based upon theory.

Nonetheless, to strengthen the foundations of my theoretical viewpoint, if I were to do this project again I would start by reconstructing my question. If I had more time on the project, I would design a more specific question that would be able to gain a more personal account from participants through how musical stimuli has affected their emotion/mood. If I were changing my question to be more specific, I would definitely conduct an interview with individual participants to gain a greater understanding into how much has affected them and in what ways.

It was originally stated that I was going conduct a group interview/focus group along side the information gathered from my survey. However, once receiving the information from my survey and analysing the results, I came to the conclusion that conducting a group interview/focus group would not be necessary. If the question I had asked were constructed in a different format or if my research topic was going in a different direction; I believe a group interview/focus group would have played an effective part in the results I collected.

With this in mind I would also think about redesigning my survey, asking questions with greater depth to gather more information rather than just baseline questions. This would in turn make the data I collect more recognisable to my research question. With an increase of information from participants on my survey I would be able to create a more effective guideline into what genres were more beneficial during certain activities or periods of the day.

Throughout the process of this research task, I have gained a greater understanding on how to respectfully acknowledge and approach the participants of my surveys through the analysis and the construction of the survey. The MIT guide for ‘The Lean Research Framework’, states that

‘Respectful research places the dignity and delight of the human subject at the center of the research experience…offers a clear, intelligible informed consent process, in which research subjects feel truly free to reject participation without fearing negative consequences.’

Taking this into consideration meant that I was to be cautious when constructing the survey, approaching the participants and when writing up the final results. In order to keep a respectful and professional stance between myself and the participants, I had to make sure that each participant had read the consent form, understanding what was to happen during the research process as well as what would be done with the results from it. I also had to ensure that within the final report all the identities of the participants was kept anonymous to ensure no emotional or mental harm was caused.

However, if no changes were made to my research topic or question my findings would still be limited to students who are studying a Communications and Media Degree at the University of Wollongong. If I wanted to create a guideline that was more universal I would have to conduct research on all university students in Australia to gain a more accurate account and understanding.

Conclusion

Although the data I analysed is inconclusive on the theory that music can affect student’s emotional wellbeing; it should be considered that different musical genres could affect your emotions and moods during different activities. The outcome I found was similar to what I had envisioned. Although there were a few surprises along the way within the responses, for the most part students at the University of Wollongong believe that music can have an affect on their emotions.

 


Bibliography

Arabin. A 2002, ‘Music during pregnancy’, Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 425-430

Atlas.ti Qualitative Data Analysis, 2002-2016, ‘Qualitative and Quantitative Research’, viewed 28 May 2016 <http://atlasti.com/quantitative-vs-qualitative-research/>

Juslin, PN & Västfjäll, D 2008 ‘Emotional responses to music: The need to consider underlying mechanisms’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 31, pp. 559-621

Moreno. EH, Leith. K & Wilson. K 2015, ‘The Lean Research Framework: Principles for Human-Centered Field Research’, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, viewed 1 June 2016 <https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B36nNXj12OvSMmJhZHRpOHZBMmM/view>

Partanen. E, Kujala, T, Tervaniemi, M & Huotilainen, M 2013, ‘Prenatal Music Exposure Induces Long-term Neural Effects’, PLOS, viewed 28 May 2016 <http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/authors?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0078946>

Smart Survey 2016,’10 Advantages of Online Surveys’, viewed 28 May 2016 <https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/articles/10-advantages-of-online-surveys>

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