Music's Effect on the Human Mind

This topic submitted by Katie Dever, Brandon Cirillo, Tony Di Ganci ( ) on 2/17/06. [ Human Nature Team: Katie Dever, Brandon Cirillo, Tony Di Ganci-Section: Cummins/Wolfe]


In human nature, the ability to retain and recall information from one's memory has a large effect on the survival of a person. The use of memory is important, for a human relies on their memory to help make decisions in their quest for survival. Humans also use emotions as catalysis for recalling and categorizing information in memory. In our current society, new technologies has created distractions such as noise that might hinder or enhance ones ability to learning information and retain it in our memory. Therefore, we will look at the effects of music and television on a person's ability to learn and retain information. Our hypothesis is that music in the learning environment will enhances ones ability to retain information, while television noise in a learning environment will decease ones ability to retain information. We will also look at how different emotions experienced will listening to music will affect ones ability to learn and retain information. Our second hypothesis is that emotion has an affect on one's ability to learn and retain information.

Our study brings together many different disciplines such as psychology, music, and statistics. The study of memory relies on cognitive psychology, while emotion derives from neuro-psychology and behavioral psychology. Then studying the effects of music on the brain will use the discipline of music. Once the data has been collected, statistics will be used to analyze the data and draw conclusions.


1. Justin, P., & Sloboda, J. (2001). Music and emotion: thoery and research. New York: Oxford University Press.
This source was chosen due to content about music and how it affects human emotion. The book is a composite of studies about music and how is affects emotion different with different type of people. The studies test emotions of listeners, performers, composers, and also give multidisciplinary perspectives on musical emotions.

2. Morris, W. (1989). Mood: the frame of mind. New York: Springer-Verlag.
This source was chosen due to the content on moods and emotions. It gives in-depth descriptions on sources of moods/emotions. It also supplies a chapter on how moods affect memory.

3. Robinson, J. (2005). Deeper than reason: emotion and its role in literature, music, and art. New York: Oxford University Press.
This source was chosen due to the content on music and emotion. It devotes a section of the book on how music drives emotions. It explains why music has an affect on the human brain.

4. Shaw, Ph.D., G. (2004). Keeping Mozart in mind. 2nd ed. New York: Elsevier Academic Press.
This source was chosen for its content with memory and music. This book contains several studies on the affects of listening to music has on memory recall in several different species of animals such as non-human primates, mice, and humans.

5. Carlson, J., & Hatfield, E. (1992). Psychology of emotion. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers.
This source was chosen for its content on emotion. It describes several different theories on emotion through traditional and neuro-physiological approaches. It also devotes a chapter on how to detect and measure emotion.

6. Herrmann, D. (Ed.). (1996). Basic and applied memory research practical applications. Vol. 2 ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
This source was chosen for its content on memory research. It gives information and tips on conducting memory research. It gives insight to research questions and results that can be applied to this study, such as memory tactics.

7. Andrade, J. (Ed.). (2001). Working memory in perspective. New York: Psychology Press.
This source was chosen for its content on short-term memory. It gives in-depth explanations on how working memory works as a whole and specifics on short-term memory.

8. van der Heijden, A. (1981). Short-term visual information forgetting. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
This source was chosen for its content on visual memory testing. The book gives information on how to test a person memory using visual displays. It gives tips on the types of displays used in research currently and the duration of exposure a test subject is given with the display. Overall, this source is good for developing the testing

9. Gathercole, S. E., & Hitch, G. J. (1993). Developmental changes in short-term memory: a revised working memory persective. Theories of Memory,189-208.
This source was chosen for its content on short-term and working memory. It gives information of memory as it develops of time through the different stages of a humans life. It also gives information specifically on how rehearsal affects memory.

10. McDaniel, M. A., Waddill, P. J., & Shakesby P. S. (1996). Study strategies, interest, and learning from text: the application of material appropriate processing. Basic and Applied Memory Research: Theory and Context, 1, 385-396.
This source was chosen for its content on studying strategies. This is a study on finding the best learning environment for optimal recall. It gives good information to create a foundation for our study.

11. Murrock, C. J. (2005). Music and mood. Psychology of Moods,114-155.
This source was choosen for its content on how music affects a person's mood. It gives information on the history of music and how it relates to science. Then it goes in depth abou the psychological affects music has on the human brain.
12. Singer, B. (1997). Look, listen, read. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
This source was chosen for its content on sounds and colors. It gives information on how sounds and speech are interconnected. It also gives information on color as it relates to cognitive psychology.

13. Strube, G., & Wender, K. (1993). The cognitive psychology of knowledge. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publihshers.
This source was chosen for its content on colors. Its gives information on human's attitudes towards colors.

14. Van Nice Gale, A. (1933). Children's preferenes for colors, color combinations, and color arrangements. Chicago: The University of chicago Press.
This source was chosen for its content on colors. It gives useful information on color preferences in children. It gives insight on how colors affect attitudes and emotions.


1. The Learning Web, (n.d.). Retrieved Feb. 17, 2006, from Music and Learning: Eight Waysto use music for teaching and learning Web site:
This website was chosen for its content on how music affects learning. It gives eight reasons why music is a good addition to a learning environment such as a classroom.

2. Brewer, C. B. (1995). Music and learning: integrating music into the classroom. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2006, from Music and Learning:
This website was chosen for its content on why music should be used in a classroom. It gives information on the positive results seen when using music in the classroom such as accelerated learning.

3. Encyclopedia of Educational Technology, (n.d.). Music and learning. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2006, from
This website was chosen for its content on music enhances the ability of information retention. It gives information on how brain wave activity is increased when music is introduced in a learning environment.


Studying the effects of music on the human mind and how it can effect someone's emotions and memory requires a complex testing of a large sample of people. We will have two different "rounds" of tests in which memory is studied and then emotional responses will be studied. We want to be able to sample as many people as possible and realize that we need a large group in order to come up with sound results. Ideally, we would like to have around 100 people participate and are requiring a minimum of 50 people.

The first round of testing will study the effect that different sounds patterns have on human memory. We will use 30 second samples of music that can fall into the following genres: Classical, Rap, Heavy Metal, Alternative Rock, Cultural, Jazz, and Techno. As an additional study, we will also use television noise, and compare all of this with the results found from silence, the control. While the music is playing, a complicated pattern of dots will be flashed on the screen for 2 seconds, followed by 4 seconds of blank screen. This will be repeated five times to account for the thirty seconds of music being played. Once this has been completed, each person in the study will be asked to recreate the pattern of dots, in order, on a form that will be provided to them. This same process will be given for each of the genres.

The second round of testing will study the effect that different sound patterns have on human emotional responses. This time around, we will be using a different song by the same artists used in the first round, but study participants will be asked, and more able, to focus on the actual music. After listening to the music for 30 seconds, participants will be asked to take their heart rate for a short period and keep track of it. We will then use the concept of Plutchik's Emotion and his diagram for the connection between certain colors and levels of emotions. Participants will be asked to gauge their response to the song using the colors/adjectives provided by Plutchik's study and his graphical scale.

When looking at the results of these tests we need to make sure that our grading scale is fair and completely unbiased. This will be especially hard to accomplish for the memory portion of the test in which participants will be asked to recreate the dot patterns that they saw. We feel that the best way of performing this task is by having a three point scale for each of the five drawings they will be asked to recreate for each of the separate genres. One point will be awarded if it in no way resembles the correct response, two points if there is a semblance of similarity, and three points if the drawings correspond significantly with the correct response. Each of the songs will then have a fifteen point scale and we will use the scores to graphically represent how different genres of music have affected the memory scores.

In order to test emotional responses to certain music genres, we will ask participants to take their pulse before hearing the song, and then directly after the song and for them to keep track of these numbers. Also given will be a graphical representation of Plutchik's work with human emotions. Participants will be asked to circle the corresponding emotion, which in the end will all be compiled and graphically

In order to successfully complete this study, we are going to need to be able to recruit at least fifty people, but ideally around one hundred. We hope to start advertising before Spring Break and to start holding the testing over a multiple night period shortly after school reconvenes. We would like to make use of Leonard Theater for multiple nights. We will provide all forms needed to complete the tests, as well as an iMovie that will be made for the testing of human memory, which will also require use of Leonard Theater's projector.

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