Why do we feel relaxed through songs

It all depends on the tone: with the right music, we feel more influential

On the way to work, in the evening rush hour, while completing "annoying" routine tasks on the computer or just to relax before an important meeting: we increasingly spend these times listening to music in the background. That relaxes, distracts and puts you in a good mood. Can the songs we hear also influence our thinking patterns and our decision-making behavior when it comes to work tasks? And if so, which music makes us feel particularly influential?

Music has an influence on our well-being and behavior, for example it can reduce worries about upcoming events and promote a good mood. In a series of studies, Dennis Y. Hsu and colleagues (2014) investigated the question: Can the songs we are listening to, our feeling of power and influence - and thus also our ability to think abstractly and our decision-making behavior in joint tasks - influence?

They assumed that certain songs evoke a stronger feeling of power and influence than others - possibly depending on the bass level. To do this, they tested 31 songs from different genres (e.g. hip hop, punk, rock, or reggae) and then had the audience evaluate how influential, decisive and dominant they felt. From this preliminary study, they continued to use the three songs that triggered the strongest or lowest feeling of power and influence in the audience - in their studies these were e.g. We Will Rock You (Queen) or.Because We Can (Fatboy Slim). They then had some of the participants solve a number of tasks, which for example recorded their ability to think abstractly, the feeling of being able to influence results, and the willingness to act - during or after either the "powerful" or the "less powerful" songs were played . The thinking and acting of the participants adapted to a certain extent to the songs - they showed, for example, a stronger abstract thinking (e.g. saw the "big picture" rather than the details) and were quicker to take the initiative when they heard the "powerful" Heard songs.

These results were not triggered by positive sentiment associated with the songs, and they were also independent of the lyrics and genre. Obviously, it doesn't depend on the text that we hear - whether it is, for example, "I got the power(snap) or another song is played. Rather, it turned out that it plays a role how deep the bass is set with which we hear a song: A deeper, stronger bass produced a greater sense of power (even on the same song) than a low-tuned bass.The researchers assume that this finding can be explained by the fact that we value lower tones - whether in language or music - as a sign of higher power: If a person speaks in a deep (rather than high) voice, we consider them to be more influential, for example based on our experience with those in power; and when we speak in a low (instead of high) voice ourselves, we feel more influential in the situation (see Stel and colleagues, 2012). Something similar could apply to music: with a deep bass we seem to associate more influence and thus feel more influential.

What does that mean if we listen to music on the side before a team meeting or turn on the radio on the way to work? The type of songs and especially the set bass level can, at least for a short time, increase or decrease our perception of power and influence - which may be useful for some decisions, some conversations with colleagues and the boss or one or the other routine task.


Hsu, D.Y., Huang, L., Nordgren, L.F., Rucker, D.D., & Galinsky, A.D. (2014). The music of power: Perceptual and behavioral consequences of powerful music. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1-9. doi: 10.1177 / 1948550614542345
Stel, M., van Dijk, E., Smith, P. K., van Dijk, W. W., & Djalal, F. M. (2012). Lowering the pitch of your voice makes you feel more powerful and think more abstractly. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 497-502. doi: 10.1177 / 1948550611427610

The songs and bass levels used in the studies:

"Powerful":We Will Rock You (Queen); Get Ready for This (2 Unlimited);In Da Club (50 cents)
"Less powerful":Because We Can (Fatboy Slim); Who Let the Dogs Out (Baha Men); Big Poppa (Notorious B.I.G.)
"High bass level": + 15dB; "low bass level ": -15dB

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/de/musiker-trompete-metall-schneemann-623362/