Factors affecting music preferences for relaxation

Don Knox, James Bathgate

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Aims: The research aims to contribute to a more context-specific theoretical explanation of music preference by uncovering the predominant factors of influence when music is chosen for the purpose of relaxation. This, in turn, helps determine the influence of specific listening situations on individual music preference and how this may vary depending on individual characteristics.
    Methods : The research utilises a mixed methods approach consisting of two consecutive phases. The initial qualitative phase uses semi-structured interviews to uncover the driving influences behind people’s musical choices. 18 participants (aged 25-52 years, 9 musicians and 9 non-musicians) were interviewed and the resulting transcripts were subjected to thematic analysis. The themes generated from the data are then used to construct a questionnaire in which participants (N=95) are asked to rate their agreement with statements about the relative importance of factors surrounding music choice for relaxation.
    Outcomes : The results show a strong preference for familiar music with a slow tempo regardless of age, gender or musical background. The emotion evoked by familiar music plays a large part in aiding relaxation. The results also show a significant difference (p<0.01) between the tendency of musicians and non-musicians to listen to music in a critical manner, which in turn produces a significant difference (p<0.05) in the level of musical complexity sought by each group. Participants also report using relaxing music in a sympathetic and allopathic manner.
    Implications : New attempts to examine the underlying factors that contribute to forming individual music preference have framed the research in specific naturalistic contexts. This study examines music use for relaxation – a context which has a demonstrated physiological and psychological impact on the individual (Benson, 1983).
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2011


    • music preference
    • relaxation
    • surveys
    • mixed methods approach


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