Music Hath Charms: The Effects of Valence and Arousal on Recovery Following an Acute Stressor


  • Gillian M. Sandstorm MA
  • Frank A. Russo PhD



The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of the valence and arousal dimensions of music over the time course of physiological (skin conductance level and heart rate) and subjective (Subjective Unit of Discomfort score) recovery from an acute stressor. Participants experienced stress after being told to prepare a speech, and were then exposed to happy, peaceful, sad, or agitated music. Music with a positive valence promoted both subjective and physiological recovery better than music with a negative valence, and low-arousal music was more effective than high-arousal music. Repeated measures analyses found that the emotion conveyed by the music affected skin conductance level recovery immediately following the stressor, whereas it affected heart rate recovery in a more sustained fashion. Follow-up tests found that positively valenced low-arousal (i.e., peaceful) music was more effective across the time course than an emotionally neutral control (white noise).


arousal, emotion, music, stress, valence

Author Biographies

Gillian M. Sandstorm, MA

Gillian M. Sandstrom is currently pursuing a PhD in social psychology at the University of British Columbia.

Frank A. Russo, PhD

Frank A. Russo is an assistant professor of psychology at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada



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