Listening to bass has strange effects on our egos

The Tweet: “Deep and loud bass in music makes our brain feel powerful.”

Scientists from the US uncovered how listening to music with a lot of bass makes you feel more powerful, and could improve your success at sports or in business. The researchers were curious about why so many sportsmen listen to music before games or competitions and wanted to see if there was any psychological benefit to pumping yourself up like this.

“When watching major sports events, my co-authors and I frequently noticed athletes with their earphones on while entering the stadium and in the locker room,” says Dennis Hsu, author of the research. “The ways these athletes immerse themselves in the music – some with their eyes steely shut and some gently nodded along the beats – seem as if the music is mentally preparing and toughening them up for the competition about to occur.”

The experimenters chose 31 tracks of different genres, from heavy metal to hip-hop, and asked the listeners to rate how they felt listening to them. The three songs that rated best and poorest for creating feelings of power were then used in further experiments. Along with an increase in feeling powerful, the listeners also recorded an increase in abstract thinking and illusory control when listening to the tracks that rated highest. The experimenters then went on to manipulate the amount of bass in the music, keeping everything else the same, and found that more bass created stronger feelings of power in the listeners.

The songs didn’t just produce feelings of power, they also made the listeners more confident to act on those feelings. After the test, the volunteers were asked to take part in a three person debate. Those who had listened to the music rated highest for creating feelings of power were twice as likely to speak first in the debate

“When people hear powerful music… they initiate tasks more often, they feel more in control in social situations and they’re more likely to see the broader connections instead of the details,” says Hsu.

Hsu believes his research has real world applications in business, citing other research that shows feeling powerful increases success in job interviews. “In the office, for example if you’re going to meet an important client, or you’re going to have a negotiation with your supervisor about a pay rise … if you feel nervous, if you don’t feel in control, then the ideal way [to get ready] is to put on your headset and pump up the beats.”

Image: Rodrigo Senna/ Flickr

This post was first published on The Untweetable Truth (12/02/2014)

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