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Music and Positive Mood Management in the Classroom
A Research Report by Chris Brewer, MA, FAMI
LifeSounds Educational Services

Excerpted, with permission from
Soundtracks for Learning: Using Music in the Classroom
by Chris Brewer.

The use of music as a teaching and learning throughout the day may help maintain a positive mood and increase learning effectiveness. I call this musical mood maintenance--keeping a positive attitude. Teachers and students universally speak of the joy of learning experienced when music is used as a learning tool. If it's true, as research suggests, that positive attitudes improve learning results then music may be one of our best tools for increasing learning success. Here is some of the research that supports this concept. 

Positive moods benefit learning success.
Researchers have established the benefits of positive attitudes for learning success, especially memory and recall (Searleman and Herrman 1994, Smith 2001). Music has been found to increase cognitive task performance (Isen 2002) as well as problem-solving and decision-making (Isen 200).
Negative moods interfere with cognition and behavior
There is much evidence that negative moods detract from learning (Yasutake and Bryan 1996). People who are depressed experience nearly continuous irrelevant thoughts that interfere with memory processes (Ellis et al 1997), take considerably more time to retrieve information (Bower 1981), and have difficulty completing tasks (Hettena and Ballif 1981). Unfortunately, a depressed or bad mood is hard to get rid of because negativity often keeps generating more negative thoughts (Wright and Salmon 1990).  Students with depression engage less in classroom activities, are less efficient at learning and generally recall less information(Kelley 1986).The number of students in our classrooms considered clinically depressed is as high as 10%  (Weissman 1999, Birmaher 1996). Teachers see "attitude disabilities" affect learning of students who have a negative attitude.
Music can create a positive mood state with potential benefits to learning
No question! Music can create a positive mood state that will enhance learning (Felix 1993). We have all experienced how music lifts our spirits, allowing us to feel more centered and productive. Music stimulates the release of mind/body chemicals that create a "feel-good" experience such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins (Wise 2004). These neurotransmitters also aid the immune system and provide for quick and easy transmission of neural messages (Glenn 1990).        
Research: Positive Moods and Music
Research from music therapy suggests that music can "reset" negative attitudes to positive moods, even for people in depression (Thayer et al 1994). Music therapists Michael Thaut and Shannon de l'Etoile researched the use of music to induce a positive mood. They played the first movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A, Opus 107 to 50 college-age students and found the music produced a positive state in 85% of the students (Thaut 1993).
Here is another study demonstrating music use as a mood management tool. Shannon de l'Etoile asked 45 college-age students to self-induce a positive mood by consciously matching their current mood to that of emotionally-positive music, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A. Students focused on mood-matching for five minutes. Four groups were used to determine the most effective classroom method for increased recall. Some students listened only before instruction, others only prior to testing, one group listened both times and a control group had no music. Students were able to recall information best when mood-matching occurred both before instruction and prior to testing. Eighty-five percent of the students were able to positively shift moods with the help of music (de l'Etoile 2002).
Priming for Positive Moods
Research has shown that our attentional systems are more active when we are prompted, or primed, to pay attention to something (Jensen 1998). Priming students to consciously shift their mood state provides effective results and teaches students an emotional intelligence strategy for mood management.

Excerpted, with permission from Soundtracks for Learning: Using Music in the Classroom by Chris Brewer.
© Chris Brewer, 2005, rev. 2008. 336-207-7505 www.MusicAndLearning.com

1.  Birmaher, B. (1996).  Childhood and adolescent depression: A review of the past 10 years.  Part 1. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 35, 11: 1427-39.
2.  Bower, B. (February 24 2004). In brain, music and language overlap. Science News. 65, 9: 111.
3.  De l'Etoile, S. K. (2002). The effect of a musical mood induction procedure on mood state-dependent word retrieval. Journal of Music Therapy 39, 2: 145-160.
4.  Ellis, H.C., Moore, B.A., Varner, L.J., Ottway, S.A. and Becker, A.S. (1997). Depressed mood, task organization, cognitive interference and memory: Irrelevant thoughts predict recall performance. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 12: 453-470.
5.  Felix, U. (1993). The contribution of background music to the enhancement of learning in suggestopedia: A critical review of the literature. Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching, 18, 3, 4, 277-282.
6.  Glenn, H.S. (1990). The Greatest human need. (Video Recording). Gold River, CA: Capabilities, Inc.
7.  Hettena, C.M., and Ballif, B.L. (1981). Effects of mood on learning. Journal of Educational Psychology 13, 505-508.
8.  Isen, A. M. (2000). Positive affect and decision making. In J. Haviland-Jones (Ed.), Handbook of emotions (2nd ed., pp. 417-435). New York: Guilford.
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(Eds), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 528-540). New York: Oxford University Press.
10. Jensen, Eric. (1998). Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
11.  Kelley, C.M. (1986). Depressive mood effects on memory and attention. In L.W. Poon (Ed.), Handbook for Clinical Memory Assessment of Older Adults, (238-243). Hyatsville, MD: American Psychological Association.
12. Searleman, A. and Herrmann. D. (1994). Memory from a Broader Perspective. New York: McGrawHill, Inc.
13.  Smith, S. M. (1985). Background music and context-dependent memory. American Journal of Psychology, 98, 4: 591-603.
14.  Thayer, R.E. (1989). The Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal. N. Y.: Oxford University Press.
15.  Thayer, R.E., Newman, J.R. and McClain, T.M. (1994). Self-regulation of mood. Strategies for changing a bad mood, raising energy, and reducing tensions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67: 910-925.
16. Wise, Roy. (June 2004). Dopamine, learning and motivation.  Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5: 1-12.
17.  Wright, J.H. and Salmon, P.G. (1990). Learning and memory in depression, In C.D. McCann and N.S. Endler (Eds.), Depression: New Directions in Theory, Research and Practice (211-236). Toronto: Wall and Emerson, Inc.
18.  Yasutake, D., and Bryan, T. (1996). The influence of affect on achievement and behavior of students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities 28: 329-334.