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The relationship between different levels of arousing music and heart rate

Research from the US National Library of Medicine demonstrates that humans listen to music for a wide
range of reasons, such as to control their moods, and to make particular tasks more enjoyable. Music
may have many differing effects on the human body, both physiologically and psychologically. It is known
that music affects many different parts of the brain, which is therefore why it has varying results on the
The following investigation was undertaken to analyse the relationship between levels of arousing music
and heart rate. The independent variable for this experiment is the music the students listened to, and the
dependent variable is the heart rate change of the students (beats per minute).
The type of data was objective quantitative, as heart rates are not open to bias and the data recorded was
heart rate BPM. This was an experimental design, and used a repeated measure design, as the 35
students tested were both exposed to the two segments of music.
The hypothesis of this investigation is that: ​It is hypothesised that when students are exposed to arousing
music their heart rate will increase, and when exposed to relaxing music their heart rate will decrease.
The 35 participants were of a 17-18 year old age group, and were in the same class in a secondary
The data collected was input into a graph to test the hypothesis. Graph 1 (below) displays the results of
heart rate after students listened to relaxing music and arousing music.

Graph 1 displays change in heart rate when listening to music segment 1 and 2

"Music Moves Brain To Pay Attention, Stanford Study Finds". ​News Center​. N.p., 2017. Web. 26 Mar.
As can be seen from the results, only part of the hypothesis was supported, as both music segment 1 and
2 decreased heart rate, although significantly more after listening to relaxing music. After listening to
music segment 1, heart rates decreased by 2 BPM, and after listening to music segment 2, heart rates
decreased by a further 2 BPM (4 BPM in total).
The results showed the mean heart rate of students changed after listening to both music segment 1 and
2, supporting the hypothesis. The mean heart rate for participants after listening to music segment 1 was
75 BPM, and after listening to music segment 2, participants heart rates decreased to a further mean
heart rate of 73 BPM. As can be seen, the mean heart rate change was greater in music segment 2,
however the hypothesis was not supported completely as heart rates also decreased when listening to
arousing music. These results were partly expected as previous research of the cardiovascular system
from ABC Science indicates that listening to relaxing music slows heart rate2, while arousing music
increases heart rate. These results are significant as it means that if people are stressed out they can
listen to music to help themselves to relax. The implications of these results are that different genres of
music can be used to alter one’s heartbeat and stress levels.
While most participants heart rates decreased when listening to both arousing music and relaxing music,
the difference between results is too small to be considered significant. The age of the students was
relevant as it gives indication for this experiment when performed on teenagers, however, as only a
relatively small sample size were tested, the results only give a small indication to a broader spectrum.
Validity & Reliability
The study has many flaws that deem the results as having both low reliability and validity. The sample
size was relatively small and limited, as all students were from the same classroom at the same school. If
this study was to be conducted on a more generic sample of participants, it is highly likely that the results
would vary. Additionally, there were multiple outliers within the results (for example, one participant
recorded 100 BPM before listening to the first music segment). These outliers contributed to a higher
standard deviation, thus altering results.
In terms of validity, as previously stated it was not possible to ensure that participants were honest
(whether it be intentional or not) within their measure of heart rate. However, participants were
anonymous in their results, which was a potential factor in increasing validity as bias was minimised.
Strengths & Weaknesses
A weakness in this experiment was that students were required to measure their own heart rate, by using
their fingers to count their own pulse. This had a potential impact on the validity and reliability of the data,
as some students may have struggled to find their pulse and track it. Additionally, it is possible that
students just estimated a number or gave any number, as they were each only accountable for their own.
In order to improve this weakness, a heart rate monitor could have been utilised by each of the students
to ensure more accurate data.
Another weakness in the experiment was that students were not allocated time to neutralise their heart
beat between listening to the music segments. This means that when they were beginning music segment
2, their heart rate could still be up after listening to music segment 1, therefore altering results. In order to
avoid this problem and improve the design, it is vital for students to be given approximately 5 minutes in
between for their heart rate to return to normal.
Furthermore, students heart rates were measured first thing in the morning, a time when your heart rate

"Music Makes Your Heart Beat Faster › News In Science (ABC Science)". ​​. N.p., 2017. Web.
26 Mar. 2017.
can vary slightly. Perhaps if this experiment was conducted at a different time of day, it would alter the
results. To improve this weakness, experiments would need to be conducted at various parts of the day to
test for differences.
Results could also have been altered if certain participants were used to listening to different types of
music. For example, if someone is accustomed to only listening to classical music and then they are
exposed to music segment 1 of arousing music, it is likely that it will have differing effects than if someone
is used to listening to heavy metal music. In order to improve this limitation, either a much larger sample
size should be tested, or participants that are less likely to have a biased music taste should partake in
the experiment.
Additionally, students were required to input another student's data into an excel spreadsheet, where
careless mistakes could easily have occurred. As 35 individual students input a randomly assigned
participants data into the spreadsheet, the likelihood for mistakes was made higher than if only one
individual had put the data in.
A strength within the experiment was that it was conducted in an enclosed room. This had a positive
impact, as it ensured no one was walking in or out of the room, therefore causing distractions. If the
experiment was to be conducted again, it would be best to keep this variable as it was a definite strength
in increasing the reliability of the data.
An additional strength within the research was that participants were allocated an ID number as opposed
to a name, that potentially influenced students to be more honest in their answers, with the knowledge
that their confidentiality was ensured. It was also not explained to the students that their data was going to
be given to another student to input into excel. Perhaps if students had known that their data was going to
be viewed by another student, the results would have been biased.
Consent forms were signed by the participants prior to the experiment, that provided the students with a
detailed outline of the nature of the study. The participants were told that they could leave at any time
during the study, for whatever reason. Each student was anonymous as they were each allocated an ID
number, however a limitation may have been that students could have been listening to others ID
numbers when they were read out loud. Students were ensured that counsellors were available at the
school, if they needed assistance for any potential psychological or physical harm, although precautions
were taken to minimise need for this.
This study suggests that there is potentially a connection between different genres of music and heart
rates. Although the study supported the hypothesis partly, as both music segment 1 and 2 decreased
heart rate, the results cannot be deemed valid due to numerous flaws within the design. The most
prominent limitation in this experiment was the small sample size. This limitation means that the results
cannot be applied on a broader spectrum, as an outcome for a whole population. However, the results do
show a relationship between how music can lower heart rate in students. In order for this study to be
more viable, a larger sample size will need to participate in a repeated experiment.