Northwestern Study Finds Songs That Pump Us Up

Hearing empowering music can alter people's behavior and make them feel like they are more powerful

Got a job interview or an intense meeting coming up? The right music could help prepare you to take it on.

Researchers at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management found that the right background music can influence how people process information and their readiness to take an initiative.

"Just as professional athletes might put on empowering music before they take the field to get them in a powerful state of mind, you might try [this] in certain situations where you want to be empowered," researcher Derek Rucker told Kellogg Insight.

After researchers played music for study subjects, the participants rated some songs as being more empowering than others.

Hearing empowering music can alter people's behavior and make them feel like they are more powerful, the researchers found. After listening to music, participants who heard high-power playlists opted to go first in a debate almost twice as often as those who had listened to the low-power playlist.

The top songs--50 Cent's "In Da Club," Queen's "We Will Rock You" and 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready for This"--made listeners feel more dominant and determined than others.

"One thing we know from prior research is that people who feel powerful tend to make the first offer in negotiations," Rucker told the . "Essentially, power is a propensity to act, to take charge in a situation."

Listeners perceived bass-heavy songs to be more empowering than low-bass ones, but researchers believe that bass is one component of music that affects people's perception of empowerment.

The results of the study suggest that the empowering effects of music are slightly unconscious and automatic. Previous research by Rucker and colleagues found that feelings of power led to better performance during interviews.

"Empowering music might be used strategically to get us in the right frame of mind," Rucker said. 

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