The Psychological Perspective On Music


Dear Writer,
Our executive team of writers has compiled an excellent source of materials for your article on the purpose of music. Our page is laid out in a structured order, which should be easy to follow. We explore the history of music and its origins, why humans are drawn to melody, the mechanics of sound and how the brain interprets music. We hope we have been useful in providing you with accurate and expansive information.

Sincerely the editors,
Abiyanka, Laura, Lauren, Marco


Acoustics: The sound an instrument makes, how that sound interacts with the space in which it occurs, and how that sound is perceived by the human brain. Sound is the result of an objects vibration through the air, and it's reaction with the molecules surrounding it. It's vibration will eventually dissipate as it runs out of energy. This changes the normally passive state of air pressure and excites the auditory sensors of an individual within its vicinity.

Coupled Acoustics: Two parts of an instrument are responsible for its sound. One part produces the vibration, and the other amplifies it, carrying the sound to the listeners ear.

Frequency: The number of waves, vibrations or cycles that pass a fixed point in unit time. In music, frequency is measured in hertz For example, 400Hz = 400 cycles of sound/second.

Pitch: The position of a single sound in a full range of sounds (where a single note sits in a song in relation to others). The faster the sound vibrates, the higher it's frequency, and the higher the pitch is. The opposite applies to slower vibrations. In essence, music is vibration. When an individual sings, sound waves are expelled from their mouth, compressing air molecules as they travel.

Bipedalism: To be able to walk upright on two feet.

Innate: Existing in humans from birth that does not have to be learned.


Theories Of Music Origins

Music is all around us and is a part of our daily lives. We cannot escape it. It remains one of the most enigmatic human behaviors. Music soothes, relaxes, inspires, controls and manipulates us but the exact origin of music is difficult to say.


There seems to be no evolutionary benefit, such as survival and procreation, in listening to music. Yet is one of the most popular leisure activities. There are various theories about the evolution of music that focuses on whether music is adaptive or not, that music is nice but has no adaptive function. Another theory is that music is important in mate choice and is sexually selected which means that the roots of music were an affective signaling system that is common to living mammals. Music has become an art full of emotions and it promotes social unity as well as auditory learning. It has become necessary for humans psychological and physiological well-being. There are references in various religious texts to singing and music. There are also cave paintings that depict people dancing. It has been suggested that a hollow stick with a hole to blow on one side may have been the first musical instrument. We are still some distance to understanding the evolution of music.

.Download PDFs. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Is Music Innate?


Music can be traced back all the way to the prehistoric times. In recent years neuroscientist and psychologist have discovered evidence that music has been interconnected with human evolution (Rodrigues, 2008). From the way our brains and bodies react, it seems that music is innately rooted in human (Rodrigues, 2008). Music can be recognized in human from the moment that we are born. Studies have shown lullabies are proven to lower heart rate and stimulate deep sleep in infants. Infants also have the natural skill to recognize the basic properties of music which includes pitch and rhythm. A recent study shows the brain scan of two and three day old babies points out that these babies can identify a certain drumming pattern. As it turned out, when the drummer had missed a beat, the babies were surprised and aware of the change (Rodrigues, 2008).

Rodrigues, S. (2008, December 1). Wired for Music. Retrieved from Greater Good:

Musical Impact of Bipedalism

Bipedalism was a pivotal event in human evolution. Bipedalism is the ability to walk upright on two legs. Bipedalism gave humans the ability to have rhythm, through walking and running, which is an important part of music (Plum, 2011). As a result of walking upright, the structure of our throats began to change. This is due to the position of the larynx, which is now placed deeper in our throats, which allows us to speak and sing (Plum, 2011). Singing songs of joy, comfort and love permits emotional exchange, expression and creates trust and solidarity within individuals. Walking upright meant that our hands were not needed to walk on anymore, therefore, not only did singing evolve but gesticulation during speech did too as well. (Plum, 2011) In many other cultures, different ranges of hand gestures are used to put an emphasis in their language. The freeing of our hands during bipedalism, meant that we could use hands for carrying items, make tools, weapons, as well as to play a musical instrument such as the drum. “For humans and human ancestors, musical displays may have … functioned, in part, to defend territory" (Cross & Morley, 2008). In the past, tribes fought their enemies using the beat of the drums to help coordinate their movements which helps to scare off their enemies. The role that rhythm and coordination plays in today’s society might created the evolutionary foundation for the musical behaviours which are seen through activities like dancing, sports, and even institutions including the military (Plum, 2011).


Plum, C. B. (2011, August 12). How Did Music Evolve in Humans? the link with bipedalism. Retrieved from HubPages:

Music evolved because it creates group unity.


Music might have evolved for adapting for social bonding. The positive effect music has influences on our ability on an emotional level, giving reason as to why it has evolved and lasted over time and in every culture (Suttie, 2015). The emotional information that is conveyed through music helps to synchronize the mood of more than one person in a large group (Huron, 2006). This puts everyone in the group at the same emotional state which creates a bonding effect between all the group members (Cross & Morley, 2008). Oxytocin is a social bonding hormone that is release in situations like singing in a group or during ritual ceremonies. In a study that was conducted, researchers came to realize that those who listened to music after an open heart surgery had higher levels of the hormone in comparison to those who had not listened to music. This insinuates that music has a direct impact of oxytocin levels (Suttie, 2015). Interactions between people and in large groups, such as concerts, audience would sing songs in unison, creating a special social connection(Cross & Morley, 2008). There are also songs sang for social unity which include both war and protest songs. Sure enough, these social bonds can have a negative effect. For instance, the music of Wagner in the early 20th century played a big role in Hitler’s propaganda (Suttie, 2015). Through Wagner’s music people united emotionally in order to act aggressively toward an innocent out group (Suttie, 2015). Music has an influence on how a person views other. In a recent experiment research (Edelman & Harring, 2014), participants had watch two videos with music or in silence. In one video three women were walking away from the camera in synchrony, and in the second video three women were walking out of sync. The participants were asked to identify which video held unity among the walkers in both situations. The participants agreed that a social bond and unity was illustrated in the walkers when music when present (Edelman & Harring, 2014). This experiment proposes that our views of social bonding within a group is influenced by the presents of music. The role of the family is essential to the emotional and social well-being of children. Listening and enjoying music with families helps to ensure this well-being. Studies have shown across four cultures, families and friends who listen to music together, is a factor which causes unity within the group (Boer & Abubakar, 2014). In the Filipino culture and Kenya culture, the effect musical rituals within the family portrays a strong positive emotional experiences and family cohesion (Boer & Abubakar, 2014). Without music being used, the young people’s lives would result in more negative emotional experiences. Being reliant on is not as valued in some cultures, giving music a chance to bring family together. Through natural selection, our human emotions exist to help us live in communities where social solidarity determines our survival (Plum, 2011). Music is one way in which increases and ensure safety among the group.

Boer, D., & Abubakar, A. (2014). Music listening in families and peer groups: benefits for young people's social cohesion and emotional well-being across four cultures. Frontiers Psychology, 1-12.

Cross, I., & Morley, I. (2008, June 3). The evolution of music: theories, definitions and the nature of the evidence. Retrieved from

Edelman, L. L., & Harring, K. E. (2014). Music and Social Bonding: The Role of Non-Diegetic Music and Synchrony on Perceptions of Videotaped Walkers. Current Psychology, 1.

Plum, C. B. (2011, August 12). How Did Music Evolve in Humans? the link with bipedalism. Retrieved from HubPages:

Suttie, J. (2015, January 15). Four Ways Music Stregthens Social Bond . Retrieved from Greater Good:

Music as a Learning Tool


Music evolved because it is a way for people to obtain and remember essential basic information. For example, children will learn about number and the alphabet through hearing and repeating songs. Simple and memorable song ensures that informational song such as these will continue to be passed down through generations. Music being used as a learning device remains an important tool people to use in the future. This implies to neuroscientist that music plays a crucial role in assisting the brain to form new pathways (Rodrigues, 2008). In the past, humans would have sung songs about farming, tribal history, and hunting, which helped them learn and remember in order for it to be passed down orally. Since writing was not yet developed, singing was the best way to obtain important information. Another example include the ancient Hebrews who memorized the first five books in the bible through chants and song before writing it down a thousand years later (Plum, 2011).

Plum, C. B. (2011, August 12). How Did Music Evolve in Humans? the link with bipedalism. Retrieved from HubPages:

Rodrigues, S. (2008, December 1). Wired for Music. Retrieved from Greater Good:

Greg, B, Mitchell, M. Asapscience (2012, August 7) The scientific power of music (video file) Retrieved from

Why do humans listen to music?


Music means many different things to everyone, in their very own way. Music is proven to change our moods, depending on the music genre and tempo were listening too. That being said they are many different types of genres from, rap, r&b, hip-hop, jazz, classical, metal and many more. Each specific genre comes with it's very own tempo, bass, style and mood. When referring to mood, it describes how we think and feel about the music we listen to and how it changes our mind states according to what we're listening too. Likewise, we listen to music when we workout. When working out we'd tend to listen to music thats high beat, a fast tempo and something that makes us get up and gets our blood pumping; it's something that motivates us. That being said, while studying a lot of individuals listen to classical music because it is said that classical music helps humans focus and concentrate more. It also helps us humans to have the ability to memorize material much easier than just reading off the paper over and over again, when not listening to anything. Humans also listen to music when they're stressed, depressed, happy, mad , etc… Music makes the human brain ease, relax and distracts it when it needs it to from unwanted things in our heads. Further, individuals listen to music for religious purposes, for example; during prayer, or at temple/church/mosque,etc.. Cultural purposes are also part of music, when individuals try to grasp onto their mother tongues, they gravitate to listen to their cultural music. In comparison, even when learning a new language or subject for example; there is also some kind of music involved. Like learning the ABC's for the first time, it's learned by singing a song with some musical in the background; making it creative and much easier to learn. Music is all around us, it's relished in many different ways and listened to for many purposes.

Warren, Uppenkamp, Patterson, & Griffiths. (2013, April 11) Why Does Music Feel So Good? Retrieved from

Comparing the musical Happy By Pharrell William and Save Him by Justin Nozuka

The song by Pharallel Williams is a very optimistic sounding beat and progressive tempo. In the music video everyone is smiling and dancing enjoying themselves. No one in the music video is presented with a frown on their faces or have that mood of depression and sadness. The song makes one feel optimistic and brings an enlightenment to individuals even if they're in another mood. It triggers a stimulus in our brains that makes one feel better. The song also transcends a few different genres, and it grabs a lot of attention. The artist himself is enjoying himself dancing and having an un-erasable smile on his face, throughout the whole song. In contrast, the song Save Him by Justin Nozuka is a much down and depressing song. It sets a mood were one feels lonely, empty and trapped. It also completely flips ones mood, from being happy prior to listening to the song too sad. These two different genres have two different mood sets.

Happy by Pharallel Williams

Pharallel, W. IamOTHER (2013, November 21) Happy (video file) Retrieved from

Save Him by Justin Nozuka

Justin, N. Gabriele Kuzabavuciute. (2009, March 17) Save Him (video file) Retrieved from

Why Do We Enjoy Music?

When we listen to music it isn’t the same as hearing other noises. Music is composed to sound appealing to the ear with melodies, verses, rhymes, beats, harmony’s and other parts that make us enjoy what we’re listing to. The purposes of our ears are to sense sounds of danger but when we listen to music we recognize that it isn’t dangerous so we can focus on the tune and appreciate it.

The enjoyment of music is largely down to the building up and release of tension. In a piece of music, there is a key note which is ‘home’. We arrive at home several times throughout the song. An easy to follow tune is often very clearly punctuated, meaning we can almost anticipate the notes and follow along.

There are many sorts of music and we enjoy them in a lot of different ways. For example music can add mood to an atmosphere like in a movie. Music can add very different moods to what you are watching. Several clichés have been built up, like strings and piano for romantic moments or sometimes music builds up tension and we try to anticipate what’s going to happen next. Similarly, when there’s “serious” music like classical or jazz, anticipation and release are a major part of our enjoyment. The composer will set up expectations and then either reward or frustrate them. Music is like telling a joke, where the punch line fits the story or it surprises you.

Everyone enjoys different music and it is even uniquely interpreted from person to person. Our reactions to music are endless because the same song can generate completely different reactions in people. Music evokes different emotions that are unique to how we feel. Sometimes these emotions can be more intense that usual and leave a powerful impression on our memory.

There is no scientific reason why we prefer one type of music to another. Everybody could enjoy more kinds of music if they gave them a chance. If you try something enough times you’ll probably come to like it but people close up their range of music to few genres. It is easy to increase your enjoyment of life by listening to a lot of different types of music.

(n.d.). Retrieved from


(n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from

Musical perceptions

The human auditory system is laid out like a musical instrument. Sound waves enter the ear and hit the ear drum, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations creates pressure waves inside the the structure of the inner ear (cochlea), causing the watery liquid inside it to move, setting thousands of tiny hair cells in motion. These hair cells convert vibrations of different frequencies into signals, that travel from the ear to the brain stem and become an electrical charge. This charge then goes to the auditory cortex and is perceived as sound. Neuroscientist Lawrence Parsons conducted a study that identified the areas of the brain that are involved with musical perception. He used five musician, and five non-musician subjects. He hooked them up to a PET scan machine which measured blood flow and oxygen levels to the brain. Results showed that there were three areas of the brain that activate for each musical element; tempo, pitch and melody. Tempo in the frontal and prefrontal areas of the brain, frequency (pitch) in the left hemisphere and cerebellum, and melody in the right hemisphere. The non musician subjects differed only in that they required more activation of the cerebellum to distinguish pitch.

Pitch is used to describe the frequency of a vibration that creates a sound. The faster it vibrates, the high the sound perceived. Pitch becomes more complex when it is laid out in varying sequence, thus creating a melody. Songs are constructed using melody. In Western music, pitch is represented by notes (A B C D E F G) which represent different levels of frequency. These distinctions are known as “keys”, and constitute distinct auditory distinctions to the listener. What is interesting, is that most people have little difficulty distinguishing melody, despite changes in pitch. For example, ‘Happy Birthday’ will sound the same at a higher pitch as it will in a lower one. This is because the “intervals” between frequency stays the same, thus creating the same auditory pattern.

Parsons, L. M. Music of the Spheres. BBC Music Magazine, 2003: 34-35. Retrieved from

Unusual Ways Music Affects The Brain

There is a clear correlation between the brain and music in fact music can actually shape the brain. Research shows that it can alter brain structures and enhance cognitive skills. Scientists are continuing to study how the brain responds to music.


Bringing back patients memories

Music has the ability to bring back memories and researchers are looking into using music as a treatment for people with memory problems. In a recent study, researchers found that people who had memory problems after sustaining traumatic brain injuries could bring back old age memories with the assistance of music. Also, other investigations have found that people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can have an “awakening” through the use of music on a patient that has been unconscious.

Ignoring the noise

As people age they become less and less capable of blocking out background noise. On the other hand, people with musical training are better than others at hearing and understanding sounds in a noisy environment as they age. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2013, researchers found that people who took music lessons only in childhood still showed long lasting brain effects when it comes to detecting sounds amid a noisy background.


Scientist found that when learning a new language, singing the phrases can helped people learn the language better, compared with simply reading those phrases. In a study, people were given a phrase to remember in a different language and some were asked to simply repeat it back to them and others were asked to sing it back to them. The group that had to sing it back did better than the others

Tan, Siu-Lan, Pfordhresher, Peter, Harré, Rom 2010, p. 10

Why Does the Bass Beat Move Us?

Bass notes are the foundation of most songs and lay down beats in music. New research suggests that the ear responds better to rhythms set by deeper sounds. Virtually all people will respond more when lower pitched instruments carry the beat of the song. Researchers suggest that this effect might originate in the cochlea, the part of the inner ear that sends electrical signals to the brain in response to sound vibrations. The cochlea is more sensitive to changes in rhythms that are made up of lower tones.

Q, B. (2014, June 30). Why That Bass Beat Moves Us. Retrieved from

The Psychology of Effective Workout Music

For some athletes music is essential to their workout. Music can be essential to an effective workout and it keeps them motivated throughout. Psychologists have become more and more interested in why exercise and music are effective for so many people. Music distracts people from the pain and fatigue; it elevates the mood and increases endurance. Your attention is focused more on what you’re listening to then what you’re doing therefore it reduces your perceived effort, making you feel less pain.

Selecting workout music isn’t as easy as putting together a playlist of fast, high-energy songs. One should consider the memories, emotions and associations one makes to different songs. The extent to which the person identifies with the singers emotional state can determine how motivated they feel listening to the song. Most of the time the rhythms may not be as important as the intonation of the lyrics.

A study done by Leonard Ayres in 1911 showed the effectiveness of music in an experiment where he tested whether cyclist pedaled faster while music was playing versus when it was silent. It was shown that with music the cyclist’s performance was better. Since then psychologist have conducted hundreds of studies on the way music changes people performance in physical activities.

Scientist now know that different regions of the human brain specialize in processing different senses and the brain uses that information it receives from one sense to help it understand another. Therefore, what people see and feel when listening to music changes what they hear. Listening to music, even while sitting, increases electrical activity in several regions of the brain that are important for coordinating movements. With this information it is evident that music, movement and the brain are intertwined.


(n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from


1.(n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
2. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from

3. (n.d.). Retrieved from
4. Boer, D., & Abubakar, A. (2014). Music listening in families and peer groups: benefits for young people's social cohesion and emotional well-being across four cultures. Frontiers Psychology, 1-12.

5. Cross, I., & Morley, I. (2008, June 3). The evolution of music: theories, definitions and the nature of the evidence. Retrieved from

5. Download PDFs. (n.d.). Retrieved from
6. Edelman, L. L., & Harring, K. E. (2014). Music and Social Bonding: The Role of Non-Diegetic Music and Synchrony on Perceptions of Videotaped Walkers. Current Psychology, 1.

7. Gholipour, B. (2014, May 30). 4 Unusual Ways Music Can Tune Up the Brain. Retrieved from

8. Greg, B, Mitchell, M. Asapscience (2012, August 7) The scientific power of music (video file) Retrieved from

9. Hertz | unit of measurement. (n.d.). Retrieved from

10.How Music Affects Our Moods. (n.d.). Retrieved from

11. Huron, D. (2006, January 25). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Is Music an Evolutionary Adaptation?, 43-61.

12. Jabr, F. (2013, March 22). The Psychology of Effective Workout Music. Retrieved from

13. Justin, N. Gabriele Kuzabavuciute. (2009, March 17) Save Him (video file) Retrieved from

14. Mannes, E. (2011). The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song. New York: Walker Publishing Company. (p6)

15. Parsons, L. M. Music of the Spheres. BBC Music Magazine, 2003: 34-35. Retrieved from

16. Pharallel, W. IamOTHER (2013, November 21) Happy (video file) Retrieved from

17. Plum, C. B. (2011, August 12). How Did Music Evolve in Humans? the link with bipedalism. Retrieved from HubPages:

18. Q, B. (2014, June 30). Why That Bass Beat Moves Us. Retrieved from

19. Rodrigues, S. (2008, December 1). Wired for Music. Retrieved from Greater Good:

20. Suttie, J. (2015, January 15). Four Ways Music Strengthens Social Bond . Retrieved from Greater Good:

21. Tan, Siu-Lan, Pfordhresher, Peter, Harré, Rom 2010, p. 10

22. Warren, Uppenkamp, Patterson, & Griffiths. (2013, April 11). Why Does Music Feel So Good? Retrieved from

22. Why do people listen to music? (2013, January 11). Retrieved from

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License