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Music can strike up a better mood

Special to The Times

All types of music -- classical, jazz, even rock and heavy metal -- may improve moods.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University, Altoona College, asked 47 students, slightly more than half of them music majors, to keep diaries of their listening habits for two weeks, noting how much time they spent listening to music, the kind of music they heard, their activities while listening and how they felt before and after.

If the students were already in a positive frame of mind, music increased those emotions, the study found. If they were feeling pessimistic or angry, the negative mood decreased.

Rock and heavy metal were the most commonly listened to kinds of music, and non-music majors listened to music for a longer total time (an average of 161.4 minutes a day) than music majors (117.7 minutes on average).

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Because the students usually listened to music while doing some other activity, such as studying, driving, dressing and relaxing, the research suggests that the task at hand affects a person’s choice of music. For instance, music majors more often chose classical music for studying and relaxing.

Most students reported multiple mood descriptions, such as relaxed and calm, but they sometimes experienced contradictory emotions, such as optimism and anger. In general, though, positive moods were more common than negative ones.

Although positive moods, except loving, improved while listening to music, there was some variation in its effects on negative moods. Fear, for instance, stayed the same; and emotions such as sadness, hatefulness and aggressiveness either stayed the same or increased slightly. Feelings of withdrawal, pessimism, grouchiness, disgust, anger and annoyance diminished.

The study was published in a recent issue of Psychology and Education.

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