Skip to content →

Does music affect the brain and behavio(u)r?

Hello! My name is Uche, and I am a student in [location]. I am doing some research on how music affects the brain and behaviours. I was wondering if you could help me answer a few questions, since you specialize in music’s effect on the brain. I hope you have time to answer a few questions. They’ll be listed below.

1. How does (certain) music affect the brain in a bad way?
2. How does (certain) music affect the brain in a good way?
3. Do you think that in the future, certain music styles will be banned for the benefit of the society?
4. Do you think that the way music affects the brain affects the behaviour?

I look forward to hearing from you,
Uche

Hi Uche! I’ve answered your questions below, interspersed with your questions.

How does (certain) music affect the brain in a bad way?

It depends on what you mean by “bad”! Music definitely affects the brain, but I’m not clear what you mean by affecting it in a bad way. I’m going to take a guess that you mean that music might make people aggressive or violent; that’s a justification that some people use to argue against certain genres of music — heavy metal, for example, or sometimes rap. Those people claim that the music “makes” people aggressive, or angry, or violent, and that the music needs to be controlled or censored somehow.

Research shows that music does not actually make people violent or aggressive, just like it doesn’t make you happy or sad; what research shows is that people who are feeling some emotion or in some mood tend to select music that reflects their mood. So sad people tend to listen to sad music — but at that point the sad music may be pleasurable and can therefore result in an improved mood! So it’s not the case that someone will get angry by listening to heavy metal music; it’s that people tend to listen to music that reflects their feelings or mood. There may be a correlation between higher levels of overall anxiety and distress and a preference for heavy metal music, but it’s not that music is causing the distress, it’s that it’s reflecting it.

How does (certain) music affect the brain in a good way?

If someone is listening to music that reflects their current mental state, and it’s a genre of music they like, that tends to be pleasurable — again, even if the music is sad or aggressive. Music has also been used to work with people with anxiety or depression, because pleasurable music (regardless of genre) can help forget about undesirable states of mind, can help relieve stress or worries, and can help remove intrusive or unwanted thoughts (which are prevalent in clinical depression). 

Do you think that in the future, certain music styles will be banned for the benefit of society?

I really hope not! There’s absolutely no scientific reason for that to happen; it would just be because people have misconceptions (grounded in ignorance) about music genres they don’t understand.

Do you think that the way music affects the brain affects the behaviour?

It can, but doesn’t have to. Energetic music can make people feel like they have more energy, or certain types of music can aid with mental work or concentration, or can strengthen feelings in a way that affect behavior. These effects are temporary, though.

I hope that these answers help you — since your questions were vague I had to guess at your intent. If there are more specific questions that you have, feel free to let me know!

-Dr. Van

Published in Ask Dr. Van

css.php