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Music and the Brain

Music has a sentimental effect on listeners. Both the musicality and lyrics can influence the listener's impact. We sought to separate the effects of lyrics and instrumentation on the power of a song.


Miles Larkins, Zion Irvine


Kelly Cotton, Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler

Project Period:




Scientists believe that initially, the two components of songs (lyrics and music) are processed together, but eventually the brain splits the two, beginning a more complex process of the brain trying to actually understand what the song means. (Hamzelou, 2010)

Our goal in this experiment is to determine which component listeners are more influenced by. The main research question was, which aspect of music (lyrical content vs instrumentation) has a greater impact on self-reported emotional responses? We hypothesized that if music and instrumentation are isolated, and subjects are asked to assess whether a song is positive or negative, the ratings for the full song will be more similar to whichever of the ratings (for instrumentation or for the lyrics) is most influential to the listener.

This page was originally developed by BioBus Summer 2021 Jr. Scientist William Rhee.

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