Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Music and emotion regulation

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Music and emotion regulation:
How can music be used to regulate emotion?

Overview[edit | edit source]

People often report that listening to music makes them feel good or helps them work through or cope with different situations and experiences. People often listen to music when they are feeling sad and need cheering up or when they are feeling happy to become even more energised. Music is played to enhance situations like working out, parties, dining in a restaurant or shopping. Music is all around us and many daily activities would feel quite different if music were to suddenly disappear. Music is an extremely powerful tool that can be used to trigger emotions and it can also be used to change or maintain an emotional state. Emotion regulation through music delves a lot deeper than just knowing that certain songs are sad songs and others are meant to be happy songs. This chapter covers how music can be used to regulate emotions, the importance of music preference in emotion regulation and whether genre or style of music is an important factor in using music for emotion regulation. This chapter also focuses on how music can be used as a therapeutic tool and, more specifically, music therapy.

Focus questions:

  • How does music regulate emotion?
  • What is the importance of music preference, genre, and knowledge for emotion regulation?
  • How can music be used as a therapeutic tool professionally and within everyday life?

What are emotions?[edit | edit source]

Emotions are powerful feelings that stem from events, circumstances and experiences that people encounter and react to. Emotions allow people to respond to and adapt to different circumstances that might arise that include threats to survival and well-being. Emotion is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "A strong feeling deriving from one's circumstances, mood or relationships with others" (Oxford Dictionary).

Figure 1. Plutchik wheel of emotions

As stated by Plutchik[factual?] there are eight basic emotions:

  • Joy
  • Trust
  • Fear
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Anger
  • Anticipation

These eight basic emotions can be merged together to form other emotions as can be seen in figure 1.

Examined in Understanding Motivation and Emotion 7th edition (Reeve, 2018, p. 340) are 20 emotions as shown in the table below:

Emotions organised into 3 categories
Basic Emotions Self-conscious emotions Cognitively complex Emotions
Fear Shame Envy
Anger Guilt Gratitude
Disgust Embarrassment Disappointment
Contempt Pride Regret
Sadness Triumph Hope
Joy Schadenfruede
Interest Empathy

What is emotion regulation?[edit | edit source]

“Emotional regulation refers to the process by which individuals influence which emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience and express their feelings. Emotional regulation can be automatic or controlled, conscious or unconscious, and may have effects at one or more points in the emotion producing process" (Gross, 1998).

Emotion regulation is explained by Gross (1998) as having five points according to a process model. These five points are the selection of the situation, modification of the situation, deployment of attention, change of cognitions and modulation of responses. Each of these points contribute to gaining a better understanding for how emotions are regulated. Regulating emotion involves controlling, managing, maintaining, or changing emotions that are being experienced in response to different circumstances or triggers that a person is exposed to. Emotion regulation is displayed when a person manages their emotional response to an event.

Example: If two people are having an argument and one person loses their temper and begins shouting and flailing their arms around. The other person might find this angering and amusing but rather than shouting back or laughing, the other party regulates their emotions and responds in a calmer manner.

How music regulates emotion[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Physiological processes behind music and emotion regulation[edit | edit source]

Listening to music can have a physical impact on the human body which can also be a factor in the response to music and how it can impact mood and emotion regulation. Listening to music that has a slow tempo, slow rhythm and rests in music can increase the level of calmness that a person feels (Music makes your heart beat faster, 2005). Similarly, this is also seen in the brain when listening to music as brainwaves were found to resonate with songs that had a strong beat[factual?]. This means that listening to songs can impact the level of calm or relaxation depending on the tempo (Saarman, 2006). Emotion regulation through the use of music was studied by Karreman et al., (2017)[how?] and it was discussed that using music to regulate emotions could offer benefits in a practical and clinical sense, suggesting that listening to music allows people to vent their emotions and allows emotions to be intensified by the music. It was also found that there are possible benefits to task performance, and that it could be possible to reduce or prevent psychological disorders that are related to stress. This would also be beneficial to the improvement of overall well-being.

The importance of music preference and music style/genre for emotion regulation[edit | edit source]

Music has been proven to be powerful with the affects that it can have on many different aspects within life. With so many different genres and styles of music and the passionate opinions that go along with that, it is reasonably questioned whether preference of music is important when it comes to regulating emotions. Psychology of music preference offers an explanation on how personality and individual and situational experiences may impact people's preferences for music.

Four reasons for music preference were identified by Van Den Tol (2016) as Memory Triggers, Connection, High aesthetic value and Direction.

  • Memory triggers – choosing music based on associations with past events
  • Connection – choosing music based on aspects of the song that the listener forms a connection with or identifies with in that moment (lyrics, story etc)
  • High aesthetic – choosing music because of its beauty
  • Direction – choosing music because it expresses a message that the listener connects with.

There are numerous experiments on the effects of music on emotions with experimenter chosen musical samples. Discussed are the results of a study that was conducted by Groarke & Hogan (2019)[explain the method] on both younger and older adults who had self-chosen their own music to measure the levels of self-regulation for negative affect. The results of this study supported the hypothesis that music chosen by the listener was more effective in regulating negative affect that was music that was not chosen by the listener. This was charged[say what?] to the theory that people of all ages are proficient at choosing music that best suits their situation and personal needs and therefore makes the preference of music and listener chosen music important for the success of emotion regulation through the use of music. It was determined from the findings of this study that there was no significant difference in the results between the younger and older adults and that self-chosen music offered an advantage for regulating negative affect[effect size?]. Groarke & Hogan also suggested that listening to music could be a useful way for regulating the levels of stress experienced by healthy older adults.

Music genres and emotion regulation[edit | edit source]

Music genres are the categories that the style of music is grouped or pinned to, based on similarities or certain musical elements that are used to identify a piece of music. There are seemingly endless musical genres and within each genre there are also a large number of subgenres that can be formed. A small sample of genres and sub-genres include:

Different genres of music might have different effects on emotions. This section of the chapter focuses on the emotional effects of heavy metal music. Despite common perceptions associating people that listen to heavy metal music with anger and troublesome behaviour, this type of music too can offer effective coping skills and be a tool for emotion regulation. Sharman and Dingle (2015) conducted a study to see how extreme metal music would affect anger processing. The results of this study showed that when angry participants listened to extreme metal music, they were able to process their feelings of anger in a healthy and effective way. It was discovered that listening to the extreme metal music matched their physiological arousal which caused an increase in positive emotions.

Other important factors for how music regulates emotions[edit | edit source]

Most people are able to identify and agree that certain songs are sad songs and others are happy songs just by listening to a few seconds of the music being played. An example of this is shown by Egermann (2014) where only a few seconds of music is played to the audience and most agreed that one piece was happy sounding, and the other piece of music was sad sounding. This was to further explain that music can trigger certain emotions. An example of this is shown in Figure 2 where a female can be seen smiling with headphones on, displaying positive emotions while listening to music. Egermann's point is further explained through four points describing them as learned associations to music and what people have learned is the appropriate way to interpret what is heard. Music expectations from learned patterns and expectations of music that might have an influence on emotions triggers by the music. Expressive emotional movement is believed to play a role in effecting[grammar?] emotions as it is explained that people have been able to predict the emotions of people by listening to the sounds of people’s footsteps and movements and it is possible that this same understanding of emotions while listening to physical movements can be translated to music therefore an understanding of expressive emotional movement. The last point that Egermann speaks about is sound activation. This is explained as the body’s response to music on a physiological level.

Because a listeners[grammar?] preference of music is more affective in regulating emotions, it is not essential that music has to have a generally considered overall happy sound to enhance positive emotions or a generally considered overall sad sound that enhances negative emotions. This however does not mean that songs that are considered sad songs and others that are considered to be happy songs do not make us feel those emotions also[awkward expression?]. Songs that are known to be sad songs are popular and enjoyed by many people. Research conducted by Van Den Tol (2016) focused on discovering the appeal of listening to sad music. It was found that listening to sad music can be used to validate emotions and be used as a told[say what?] for comfort and relaxation. People listen to sad music when they are experiencing sadness themselves and use the music as a tool for coping and emotion regulation. This demonstrates that while happy music can enhance positive emotions and sad music can enhance negative emotions, this is not always the case.

How music can be used as a therapeutic tool for emotion regulation[edit | edit source]

Emotion regulation is important as there are many benefits that come from having the ability to regulate emotions. One of the main and most obvious benefits of being able to regulate emotions is of course being able to feel happy or more positive in situations that challenge these emotions. Emotion regulation is also good for improving overall well-being. It can have positive impacts on health, relationships, performance both personally and work related, it helps to build better coping strategies, tolerance for stressful situations, improves mindfulness skills, impulse control, and resilience[factual?].

Music can be used in a therapeutic way to aid and support people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to improve their health, well-being, and quality of life through organised and structured music therapy sessions with a registered music therapist.

Music therapy[edit | edit source]

To engage in music therapy there is no previous musical experience or musical understanding required and there is no required musical skill level to reap the benefits of music therapy. Music therapy involves a registered music therapist who is trained to have an understanding of music and counselling and uses a combination of these two skills to improve people’s communication, speech, and social skills. Music therapy can also be used to improve cognitive function, memory, and attention. It can improve physical health and improve movement of the body and overall physical function. Mental health, well-being and mood have also been improved through the use of music therapy and it can even be used to effectively improve pain management (Australian Music Therapy Association, 2012).

You can find music therapists in settings such as hospitals, schools, convalescent homes, community health programs and also often in private practices.

It is not required to have any knowledge of music or any musical skills or abilities to see a music therapist and have a music therapy session. It is however, required for the music therapist to have an understanding and proficient knowledge of music and be a registered music therapist in order to conduct a music therapy session (Australian Music Therapy Association, 2012).

Music therapy sessions involve participating in activities that involve using music in some form. This might mean listening to music of a particular type, it might involve playing a musical instrument or observing the music therapist play a musical instrument, writing/re-writing lyrics for songs[grammar?]. An example of what a music therapy session might look like is shown in figure 3.

Figure 4. Tibetan singing bowl

Singing bowls are often used for meditation and offer many benefits for mental health and well-being as well as physical health benefits including cardiovascular benefits (Stanhope & Weinstein 2020). The use of singing bowls allows for meditation and music therapy skills to be combined and utilised for maximising the improvements in emotional state. An example of what a singing bowl sounds like can be heard in the audio clip of figure 4.

Therapeutic use of music within everyday life[edit | edit source]

It has been discussed how music can be used in a professional therapeutic setting such as music therapy, but music is also used by many in everyday life as a tool for coping and emotion regulation. People choose music according to their feelings and emotional state at the time. Results from a study conducted by Thoma et al., (2012) supported the idea that people will choose music in everyday life that is individually suited to their needs and situation that offered support, or the ability to control or alter their situation in an attempt to regulate their emotions{gr}}. Selection of music does not need to be made with the intentions of regulating emotions for it to have an effect on regulating emotions. The preference of music can be a decision made by the unconscious mind and it is not necessary for a person to be consciously using music to influence or regulate emotions for music to have an impact. Using music for emotion regulation has proven to have numerous benefits[factual?]. Another example of these benefits for use in everyday life is shown by Lane et al., (2011) when participants of their study showed that music increased pleasant emotions and decreased unpleasant emotions which resulted in their running performance levels to significantly improve[Provide more detail].

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Using music for emotion regulation offers numerous benefits for well-being, quality of life, relationships, work performance, physical performance and has benefited many other areas within people’s lives. Using music to regulate emotions offers people in normal everyday life situations the skills and ability to better cope, respond and improve challenging situations that might be faced. Using music to regulate emotions in a more professional and trained setting offers people to work with qualified music therapists to improve health and well-being for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Music has many different elements that can impact emotions using the story telling through the lyrics, or the characteristics of a song told by tempo, key, the rhythms, and rests can all affect the impact of a song and how it can be used to regulate emotions. Music is an enjoyable and easily accessible tool that can be used to regulate emotions and benefit lives in so many different ways.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Australian Music Therapy Association. (2012). Australian Music Therapy Association |.

Egermann, H. (2014, September 2). Emotional responses to music: Hauke Egermann: TEDxGhent [Video].

Groarke, J. M., & Hogan, M. J. (2019). Listening to self-chosen music regulates induced negative affect for both younger and older adults. PLOS ONE, 14(6), e0218017.

Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging Field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 271-299.

Karreman, A., Laceulle, O. M., Hanser, W. E., & Vingerhoets, A. J. (2017). Effects of emotion regulation strategies on music-elicited emotions: An experimental study explaining individual differences. Personality and Individual Differences, 114, 36-41.

Lane, A. M., Davis, P. D., & Devonport, T. J. (2011). Effects of music interventions on emotional states and running performance. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 10(2), 400-407.

Music makes your heart beat faster. (2005, October 10).

Oxford Dictionary. (n.d.). Emotion. In Lexico dictionaries | English.

Reeve, J. (2018). Understanding motivation and emotion (7th ed.). Wiley.

Saarman, E. (2006, May 31). Feeling the beat: Symposium explores the therapeutic effects of rhythmic music.,the%20rhythm%2C%20research%20has%20shown.&text=His%20studies%20found%20that%20rhythmic,such%20as%20Ritalin%20and%20Adderall

Sharman, L., & Dingle, G. A. (2015). Extreme metal music and anger processing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9.

Stanhope, J., & Weinstein, P. (2020). The human health effects of singing bowls: A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 51, 102412.

Thoma, M. V., Ryf, S., Mohiyeddini, C., Ehlert, U., & Nater, U. M. (2012). Emotion regulation through listening to music in everyday situations. Cognition & Emotion, 26(3), 550-560.

Van den Tol, A. J. (2016). The appeal of sad music: A brief overview of current directions in research on motivations for listening to sad music. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 49, 44-49.

External links[edit | edit source]