Date of Award

Spring 2024

Project Type

Departmental Honors Paper/Project


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

James Nelson


Recent research has shown that musical pleasure is due to the combination of uncertainty and surprise a musical piece elicits. Additionally, research has demonstrated that music influences arousal and mood, both of which affect learning. However, current research has not adequately tested whether pleasurable music indirectly improves learning by influencing mood/arousal. This study attempts to do so. Twenty-seven participants completed a survey that included the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire. Eighteen participants, whose scores demonstrated that they feel emotion-evoking and/or mood-regulatory pleasure from listening to music, came in for further testing. These participants experienced a music condition, in which they listened to an arrangement of pleasurable Western classical music clippings, and a no-music condition, in which they heard only the test prompts. Two standard memory tests, the CVLT-3 and the RAVLT, were used to measure a participant's learning ability in each condition. Changes in physiological arousal were measured via electrodermal activity (EDA). Each tested participant also completed two standard measures of executive functioning; their executive functioning scores were used for analysis of covariance. Repeated measures general linear model analyses were run to analyze conditional differences in baseline EDA, testing EDA, and memory performance. I expected participants to exhibit a more medium, and therefore more ideal, level of arousal during the music condition compared to the no-music condition. After analysis of covariance, I expected participants to perform better in the music condition than in the no-music condition. Trends were observed and the characteristics of notable participants were examined.