Illustrated by Gabriela Alford.
If you’re feeling particularly confident this week, that boost could be coming straight from your headphones: A study recently published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science reveals that a more bass-heavy playlist can make you feel and act authoritatively.
It’s no secret that feeling powerful can elevate your sense of control over your life, improve your cognitive functioning, and even make you take more risks. So, a team of researchers led by Northwestern University’s Dennis Y. Hsu wanted to know what features of music might help to elicit those same behaviors.
Study participants were administered a series of tests involving sentence completion and rolling dice while music was being played. First, researchers tested whether lyrics or genre had any significant effect on participants' feelings of power during the tests (they did not). Then, researchers played music with high levels of bass for half the participants, while the other half listened to low-bass music. Those who had listened to the thumpin' tunes were more likely to complete sentences with power-related words (such as control, direct, or rule). They also preferred to roll dice themselves rather than let an experimenter take the lead. Even after the music stopped, participants who had listened to heavy bass still felt the effects; they were more likely than their low-bass counterparts to volunteer to go first in a debate.
Using the sound of bass as a symbol of power isn’t new: As the study’s authors note, we’re used to deep, gravelly voices (hey there, Darth Vader) invoking a sense of authority — so maybe it's no wonder that “Who Let The Dogs Out” stays firmly in the low-power camp.
To get you feeling more in control, here’s a playlist including high-power songs from the study and a few of our other bass-heavy favorites.