Western Undergraduate Psychology Journal

Article Title

Music and the Unconscious Mind: A Proposed Study Examining The Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Basic Musical Rhythms


Rhythm is an integral component of human culture, notably in language and music. It is one of the most basic elements that make up music, which has become an influential force in peoples’ day-to-day lives across cultures. Music is known to impact various autonomic functions such as blood pressure and heart rate, which have a correlative relationship with emotions and stress levels. Focusing on internal autonomic processes influenced by rhythm, such as heart rate, may give insight to how the mind unconsciously interacts with music, and what mental processes this might affect. This paper proposes a study in which individuals listen to a rhythmic pattern played on a djembe drum at either a slow tempo or fast tempo. During rhythm playback, individuals’ heart rates are proposed to be measured using a pulse oximeter. Expected results are discussed in terms of how they relate to ideas offered in entrainment theory as well as timing systems theory, both of which suggest internal rhythmic processes are influenced by or respond to external rhythmic stimuli. Additionally, expected results focus on applications in clinical and therapeutic settings, where low heart rates, and stress levels may be required or optimal.

This document is now available on OJS