Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Honours


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Supervisor

Professor Craig Speelman


Music plays an important role in all of the world's cultures, and background music is an ever-present phenomenon. Despite this, few studies have formally addressed whether background music influences the way people think. The aim of this study was to discover whether the presence of background music can influence cognition. Specifically, the differential effects of music rated as being positive (inducing happy emotions) and negative (inducing anxiety) on a person's allocation of attention was investigated. A dot probe task with positive and negative word pairings, matched for length and frequency was used in order to test the hypotheses that the presence of negative music would increase a person's tendency to notice threatening words, and happy music would decrease this tendency. Each participant performed the task in silence. Following this, they were required to perform the task again in the presence of positive background music, and then again in the presence of negative background music. The mean reaction times for each of the musical conditions was recorded and compared. The data failed to support these hypotheses. It was concluded that if positive and negative background music does differentially influence attention, it happens at a later processing stage rather than at the initial orienting stage. Future research directions are briefly discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons