Do This Before a Race and You May PR

I love to listen to music when I run. Some say that listening to music seemingly empowers you to do great things. And science is learning that this isn’t just in your head.

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You are generally advised against wearing headphones during a race as it can make you less able to perceive your surroundings, making you less safe or putting others at risk. However, don’t necessarily leave the earbuds at home. You may want to consider a little music as part of your pre-race routine.

I love to listen to music when I run. It helps to keep me motivated. I see professional sports players do this all the time as well – wearing their Beats before heading into the locker room or out onto the field. Some say that listening to music seemingly empowers you to do great things. And science is learning that this isn’t just in your head.

Dennis Hsu of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University noticed the same thing. "When watching major sports events, my coauthors and I frequently noticed athletes with their earphones on while entering the stadium and in the locker room," he says. "The ways these athletes immerse themselves in the music -- some with their eyes steely shut and some gently nodded along the beats -- seem as if the music is mentally preparing and toughening them up for the competition about to occur."

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Hsu and his colleagues pre-tested 31 pieces of music from several genres to see how powerful participants feel when listening. In general, music does tend to create positive feelings in the listener. The team also found that high-powered music evokes a sense of power subconsciously.

Which songs were considered most powerful? Those with a lot of bass. Previous studies have found that bass sound and voice are associated with dominance and confidence says Hsu (Think James Earl Jones as Darth Vader).

Of course, any music that makes you feel confident and empowered would probably create the same positive outcomes. Try it out prior to your next race. Create a playlist of a few songs that symbolize “victory” to you. You may just find that you PR!

Journal Reference:
Dennis Y. Hsu et al. The Music of Power: Perceptual and Behavioral Consequences of Powerful Music. Social Psychological and Personality Science, August 2014 DOI: 10.1177/1948550614542345

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