The Music of Power Perceptual and Behavioural Consequences of Powerful Music

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The Music of Power Perceptual and Behavioural Consequences of Powerful Music

ABSTRACT

Music has long been suggested to be a way to make people feel powerful. The current research investigated whether music can evoke a sense of power and produce power-related cognition and behavior. Initial pretests identified musical selections that generated subjective feelings of power.

This research expands our understanding of music’s influence on cognition and behavior and uncovers a novel antecedent of the sense of power.

High-power songs

Low-power songs

Results

 

Experiment 1 found that music  to be powerful implicitly activated the construct of power in listeners. 

Experiments 2–4 demonstrated that power inducing music produced three known important downstream consequences of power: abstract thinking, illusory control, and moving first.

Experiments 5a and 5b held all features of music constant except for the level of bass and found that music with more bass increased participants’ sense of power.

IMPLICATIONS/LEARNINGS

How to conduct similar music research for your brand

STEP 1

HYPOTHESES 

Experiment 1: Does music  implicitly activate the construct of power? 

Experiment 2: Does high-power music lead to an important cognitive outcome of power—abstract thinking, the tendency to ‘‘see the forest instead of the trees’’?

Experiment 3: 
Does music exert influence on another fundamental cognitive consequence of power—illusory control, the extent to which people perceive increased personal control over future events? Does listening to high-power music (vs. low- power music) increase beliefs of personal control?

Experiment 4: 
Does music affect participants’ tendency to move first?

Experiment 5a/5B: 
Does listening to the heavy-bass version would produce more self-reported feelings of power than listening to the light-bass version?  Explicit Sense of Power vs. Music Bass and Implicit Sense of Power.

  • Pre-test 1 power: 31 music pieces from several genres (i.e., sports music, heavy metal, punk, reggae, and hip-hop). The three highest rated music pieces were grouped and grouped the three lowest rated music pieces were grouped.

  • Pre-test 2 lyrics : Testing lyrics alone for the selected music pieces. No difference in the power ratings. Suggesting music’s influence on power could not be attributed to a mere semantic priming effect of lyrics.

STEP 2

METHODOLOGY

STEP 3

Survey/
Measurement

Pre-test 1
Listened to 30-s musical excerpts and rated how they felt using 7-point scales.
a) powerful
b) dominant
c) determined 

Positive emotions
Participants rated how happy, excited, and enthusiastic they felt at the moment (Fast et al., 2009).

Experiment 1: 
Power-related words such as power, control, direct, lead, rule, authority, command, etc. vs non-power related words.

Experiment 2: 
Category inclusion task rating how prototypical exemplars were of a particular category (from 0 = not at all to 10= very prototypical).

Experiment 3: 
They measured illusory control following the die-rolling paradigm (Fast et al., 2009; Langer, 1975). 

Experiment 4: 
Listen to the music and complete several ostensibly unrelated tasks.

Experiment 5a:
Listened to music and completed a random questionnaire. In the heavy-bass condition, the bass was set to +15 dB and in the light-bass condition, the bass was set to -15 dB. The volume of the headset was set to a fixed level (50%) and participants were instructed not to change the volume of the headset throughout the experiment. The music piece lasted for 2 min and participants only listened to the piece once.

Experiment 5b:
Listened to music and completed a random questionnaire. The music played repeatedly in the background at a fixed level of volume from the headset (50%); participants were instructed not to change the volume of their headset during the study. In the heavy-bass condition, the bass was set to +3 dB and in the light-bass condition the bass was set to -20 dB.