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Self-reported State Anxiety Following Exposure to Musical Genre Amanda Farrington Cabrini College

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Self-reported State Anxiety Following Exposure to Musical Genre

Amanda Farrington

Cabrini College


The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of music on anxiety and mood. Anxiety has been defined by Lazarus (1999) as the resulting feeling of something that is taxing or exceeding one’s resources which has the potential to endanger one’s well-being. Young adults, college students especially, learn to incorporate dealing with stress and anxiety into their everyday lives. College student’s lives are especially stressful, since they struggle with a variety of academic, personal, and social pressures (Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, Wilcher, et. al., 2002). Some stress can enhance performance, but too much can negatively affect mental and physical health (Deckro, 2002).

Researchers have found that the most popular methods of stress reduction are music therapy, social interaction, exercising, and seclusion. Gaynor (1999) has found that music therapy is a successful method for reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation and that the effects of music on physiologic functions include reduced anxiety, lowered heart and respiratory rates, lowered blood pressure, and increased immune cell messengers. Hilliard (2003) and Cheek (2003) agree that music assists in reducing stress while increasing one’s quality of life. In order to ensure a therapeutic outcome, the music played should be the person’s preferred genre (Walworth, 2003). It is hypothesized that the soft, easy listening music genre will decrease anxiety levels whereas other genres such as pop and rap will not significantly affect anxiety levels.


Each participant was given the music pre- test and was asked to circle the responses they felt most appropriately conveyed their current state anxiety. The researcher randomly assigned participants to one of three groups with each group exposed to a different genre of music; easy listening, rap, or pop. Each group then listened to one song from the above list. The participants were then asked to fill out the music post-test. The tests were handed directly to each participant. The tests were returned immediately to the author upon completion and there was no set time limit.

  • Results
  • A two-way analysis of variance with pretest - post test as a repeated measure was conducted to evaluate the effect of music genres on state anxiety inventory scores.
  • Main effect for the pre and post test was not significant. However, the interaction between anxiety score and genre was significant,
  • F (2, 42) = 6.56, p =.003.
  • Dependent samples t-tests were conducted with Bonferroni corrections. The Easy Listening,
  • t (14) = -5.93, p<.001 and Pop, t (14) = -3.39, p = .004 genres’ t-tests were significant indicating a lowered anxiety after exposure.
  • Rap increased anxiety but not to a significant level.

Table 1

Pre-test and Post-test Anxiety Scores by Genre



Pre-test Easy 28.53 5.33 15

Rap 30.33 4.96 15

Pop 30.40 4.42 15

Total 29.76 4.86 45

Post-test Easy 33.60 4.29 15

Rap 26.53 7.63 15

Pop 33.33 3.37 15

Total 31.16 6.24 45


  • Hypotheses
  • It is hypothesized that the easy listening music genre will decrease anxiety levels.
  • Pop and Rap will not change anxiety levels.


In contrast to Gaynor (1999), music in general did not have a significant impact on one’s anxiety scores; however, music genres significantly influenced anxiety levels. Musical preference was not measured in this study but certainly relevant for future investigations. As Walworth (2003) suggests, musical preference may be a determining factor in the effect music has on mood.




Participants were from a convenience sample of forty-five women volunteers of sophomore or junior status attending a small, private liberal arts and sciences college.


Burke’s State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) (2003) was given to participants. Scores range from 10 to 40, with 10 indicating the highest anxiety level. Three songs representing three musical genres were used. The easy listening group listened to the song “White Flag” sung by Dido. The rap genre song was “Tipsy” sung by J-Kwon and the pop genre song was “With You” sung by Jessica Simpson. These songs were selected from “Billboard’s Hot 100” list to ensure equal airplay and distribution.





Anxiety Level
















Music Genre

Figure 2. Error bars for pre-test and post-test anxiety

scores by music genre.