Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Music has served as an important element of most cultures, but its use as a therapeutic intervention to relieve anxiety, control pain, and manage disease remains new. Limited research exists to explain how music relieves anxiety and pain. Explanations include plasma cortisol control, cardioregulatory nuclei control, norepinephrine and epinephrine control, entrainment, and distraction. The majority ofresearch is focused on reporting music’s significant effect on reducing anxiety, pain, and discomfort for individuals undergoing anxiety-provoking events, painful medical procedures, or hospitalization. This study tested the effects ofthe sound environment (music and no music) on differences in individual subjects’ pulse rates. Ten undergraduate student subjects were introduced to an anxiety-provoking situation that included having to complete as many paper-and-pencil mazes as possible in 30 minutes and being recorded with a camcorder. At five minute intervals, subjects’ pulse rates were recorded. During one paper-andpencil maze session, the external condition was silence; during the other session, the external condition was music. The results of the study found that there was a significant difference (t6 = 2.0000, p < 0.0462) in pulse rate changes as a function of the sound condition. When subjects were under the music condition, their pulse rates dropped significantly more from the beginning pulse rate to the ending pulse rate than did the pulse rates of subjects in the control group with no music condition. The conclusion from this research is that music can significantly decrease physiological responses to anxiety.

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