Research Article: Listening to self-chosen music regulates induced negative affect for both younger and older adults

Date Published: June 6, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Jenny M. Groarke, Michael J. Hogan, Lutz Jäncke.


The current study evaluated the efficacy of self-chosen music listening for the function of affect regulation comparing effects in younger and older adults. Forty younger (18–30 years, M = 19.75, SD = 2.57, 14 males) and forty older (60–81 years, M = 68.48, SD = 6.07, 21 males) adults visited the laboratory and were randomised to either the intervention (10 minutes of listening to self-chosen music) or the active control condition (10 minutes of listening to an experimenter-chosen radio documentary). Negative affect (NA) was induced in all participants using a speech preparation and mental arithmetic task, followed by the intervention/control condition. Measures of self-reported affect were taken at baseline, post-induction and post-intervention. Controlling for baseline affect and reactivity to the NA induction, in comparison with the active control group the music listening group demonstrated greater reduction in NA. Supporting developmental theories of positive ageing, analyses also found significant main effects for age, with older adults experiencing greater reduction of NA than younger adults, regardless of condition. Results of the current study provide preliminary insights into the effects of self-chosen music on induced NA, however, additional experimental control conditions comparing self-chosen and experimenter-chosen music with self-chosen and experimenter-chosen active controls are needed to fully understand music listening effects for affect regulation.

Partial Text

Music listeners highlight affect regulation as the most common and most important function of music [1]. Affect regulation functions of music listening have been associated with higher levels of wellbeing in survey studies [2]. Experimental studies of music listening have reported a range of effects that have implications for enhancing wellbeing, including increased positive affect and decreased negative affect [3], increased relaxation [4], and reduced stress [5]. However, fewer studies have examined the affect regulation effects of music listening following a stressor or negative affect induction. This type of study design provides a greater degree of experimental control by ensuring that participants in all conditions are experiencing a more similar affective experience at baseline, prior to the examination of music listening and control group effects.

This study was conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki. All procedures were reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Committee at NUI, Galway (Ref: 15/JAN/08).

A large number of statistical tests are reported below. There is increased risk of Type I errors (finding a false positive) when testing multiple hypotheses, using multiple tests, and multiple outcome measures. P-value adjustments (e.g., the Bonferroni correction) reduce the chance of making Type I errors, but increase the chance of making Type II errors (finding a false negative) [38]. In the current study statistical significance was determined as p < .05. However, when interpreting the findings, the reader should balance the reported significance level with the magnitude of effect, the quality of the study, and with findings of other studies. The current RCT examined the efficacy of a brief music listening intervention for the function of affect regulation. The hypothesis that a self-chosen music listening intervention will be more effective in regulating induced NA than an experimenter-chosen active control was supported. Specifically, post-intervention the NA regulation score was higher, signifying better regulation for those in the music listening condition (intervention) than for those listening to a radio documentary (control). Correcting for multiple NA outcomes and using a more conservative p-value of .01, there was a significant main effect for condition found for Nervousness and Sadness, with all other NA outcomes excluding Tension showing positive effects of self-chosen music at the .05 level of significance. Overall, effect sizes were medium to large ranging from .06 –.17. Consistent with the studies by Sleigh and McElroy [21], Matsumoto [20] and Radstaak et al. [25], which found positive effects of music relative to an active control, the current study found that listening to music had a greater regulatory effect than listening to a radio documentary. More generally, this finding suggests that listening to personally-chosen music may provide an effective means of regulating affect in times of stress. The results of this study provide preliminary insights into the effects of self-chosen music on NA amongst younger and older adults, and supports the idea that, relative to listening to an experimenter-chosen radio documentary, personal music listening offers additional advantages for regulating NA aroused by the prospect of a stressful challenge, and this effect does not differ for younger and older adults. Future research employing additional experimental controls is needed to examine the mechanism through which self-selected music listening serves to regulate NA in stressful situations. Supporting the generalisability of the socio-emotional selectivity theory, older adults showed superior affect regulation than younger adults in both music listening and active control conditions.   Source:


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