Study Shows Music’s Psychological Benefits Before Competition

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If you’re a regular exerciser, you’ve likely experienced the phenomenon of pushing harder when there’s music playing in the background. Scientists call this the “ergogenic effect” – a phenomenon where the right music lessons perceived fatigue and trigger a positive stress response in the body. Associate Professor Aron Laxdal at the University of Agder (UiA) states, “It is well known that music can improve performance when exercising.

But athletes cannot wear headphones during competitions. We wanted to understand what happens if you listen to music before a competition, not during it.” To delve into this phenomenon, Laxdal and his colleagues embarked on a study involving forty young soldiers and two versions of a self-composed techno track. “We recruited subjects to take part in the experiment from military recruits.

It was a conscious choice because they are about the same age, have the same taste in music, and are relatively well trained,” Laxdal explains. This study was published in Sage Journal. Careful control was crucial for the research to yield reliable results, which meant being discerning about the music selection. Laxdal adds, “If someone has a particular relationship with ‘Eye of the Tiger’, they will perform extra well when they’ve heard it. Others may have a negative relationship with the song, and that may also affect performance.” 

Choosing unfamiliar music was essential, and a solution emerged from a bachelor’s student in electronic music at UiA’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Assistant Professor Andreas Waaler Røshol at UiA shares, “As far as we know, this is the first time someone has used self-composed music to investigate the effect it has before competitions.” Røshol, who leads the electronic music bachelor’s program, entrusted his students with crafting a piece suitable for training and adjustable in tempo. 

“The challenge was to create a piece of music that fits the survey and still has qualities equivalent to something that could be on the subjects’ playlist,” Røshol says. Student Martin Brudevoll Vosseteig delivered the optimal solution – a techno track designed to be played at varying speeds without compromising its musical quality. Røshol notes, “It strengthens our research that we were able to design the music to such a large extent. We wanted music that the target group would understand, without vocals, and that would make people want to exercise.” 

UiA’s previous research indicated that individuals react physically to electronic dance music (EDM) involuntarily, further emphasizing the power of music’s influence. In a series of experiments, the forty young soldiers (23 men and 17 women) were exposed to the fast version, the slower version, or no music at all. They reported their feelings and completed a thirty-second rowing machine session. The study measured the music’s effect in two key areas: mental state and preparedness to perform. 

“The participants scored higher in both areas after listening to the music. Regardless of whether the music was fast or slow, it had a positive preparatory effect on the performer compared to when they were not listening to music,” Laxdal explains. Interestingly, those who listened to fast music prior to exercise displayed greater effort during rowing. “This shows that those who listen to music before competitions will get more psychological benefits,” Laxdal concludes. 

The study conducted by the University of Agder researchers delves into the intriguing phenomenon of music’s role in enhancing exercise preparation. With carefully selected self-composed music, the study’s findings highlight the music’s capacity to positively impact both mental states and readiness to perform. This research offers valuable insights into how athletes and exercisers can optimize their pre-competition routines through the power of music. 

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