The Effect of Self-Selected Music on Frontal Alpha Asymmetry After Experiencing a Cognitive Stressor




Wilson, Courtney A.

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Music is an effective means for improving mood, decreasing negative affect and anxiety, and increasing creativity (Chin & Rickard, 2014; Lynar et al., 2017). Recent studies have demonstrated that frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) may reflect emotion processing, with greater left FAA representing positive affect and greater right FAA demonstrating negative affect (Arjmand et al., 2017). The purpose of this study was to investigate if FAA shifts to the right (indicating decreased alpha power) after a cognitive stressor, then to the left (indicating less alpha power) after listening to self-selected music as a function of changes in state anxiety and mood. Exploratory correlations investigated relationships between the self-reported affect and anxiety and changes in FAA. Participants completed baseline EEG recordings and self-report scales. They then completed a cognitive stressor (Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task) and listened to a self-selected song that “invokes positive mood” while EEG and self-reported mood were monitored. The results indicated that positive affect increased and negative affect and anxiety decreased after music. FAA did not change over time; however, frontal alpha activity increased from baseline to stressor, and further while listening to music. Correlations were found between changes in affect and self-report scales, but not with EEG correlates. Results suggest that music is not relaxing in the traditional sense of the word, in spite of improving state affect and anxiety, but could be representative of an active state of attention in which creative ideation and intersensory processing may occur.



Frontal asymmetry, Cognitive psychology, Emotion regulation, Music


Wilson, C. A. (2020). <i>The effect of self-selected music on frontal alpha asymmetry after experiencing a cognitive stressor</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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