Motivational music increases risk-taking behavior, study finds


Listening to motivational music during sports activities and exercise increases risk-taking behavior, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology. This is  particularly seen in male participants and participants who made their own playlist. Motivational music, however, does not improve sports performance.

While a photo of one’s workout may be a like-worthy Instagram post, working out and taking care of one’s body is key for a healthy lifestyle. There is now an increased awareness of how healthy it is to maintain a fitness routine. Some people may still find it difficult to have the time and motivation to work out, so they turn to music to help them get through the tedious workouts they plan on posting about on their Snapchat stories.

The study “The Sound of Success: Investigating Cognitive and Behavioral Effects of Motivational Music in Sports,” explained how listening to music with headphones during a workout affected one’s behavior.

“Listening to motivational music has become a popular way of enhancing mood, motivation and positive self-evaluation during sports and exercise,” according to the EurekAlert! article titled “Motivational music increases risk-taking but does not improve sports performance.”

While motivational music is known to improve an individual’s mood, the psychological procedures and means that clarify the impact of motivational music are not understood. It has yet to be agreed-upon if listening to motivational music does anything more than produce emotional responses and improve an individual’s mood.

Baruch College student Giselle Lara, a junior majoring in finance said that, “I find some workouts, like cardio, boring. So, I listen to music because it entertains me and aids me in getting it done. Also, I think music can be motivating when you exercise. I use Spotify playlists.”

Lara, as well as some gym-goers, prefers to listen to music while exercising.

The study tested three hypotheses regarding the role of music in sports and exercise using a ball throwing task. The first hypothesis was that motivational music would enhance self-evaluative cognition. Self-evaluative cognition is how an individual perceives oneself and it includes self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. The second hypothesis was that motivational music would improve performance during a ball game and the third hypothesis was that motivational music would “evoke greater risk-taking behavior.”

One hundred and fifty people were divided into three groups. They were instructed to perform a ball-throwing task from specified distances and completed questionnaires while listening to either participant-chosen music, experimenter-chosen music or no music.

Researchers assessed risk-taking behavior by permitting participants to choose the distance to the basket. For each successful test, participants were granted monetarily points for encouragement.

The first and second hypothesis were proven wrong. Listening to music did not have any promising or damaging effects on overall performance, self-evaluative cognitions or sport-connected anxiety.

The third hypothesis was that motivational music would trigger risk-taking behavior.

Researchers found that self-esteem increased in participants who were performing well.

Motivational music increased risk-taking behavior, especially in males and those who selected their own motivational music. The results also showed that those who made dangerous choices gained higher financial prizes.

People can listen to music for enjoyment or it can serve as a pastime. Now it is proven that people take more risks while listening to music. However, researchers said that further studies must be conducted since several aspects go into deciding whether a specific song is boosting someone’s self-confidence such as: the person’s liking, familiarity and empathy with the song