This story is over 5 years old.

Science: Cranking The Bass Makes You Feel Powerful

According to a study conducted by researchers at Northwestern, music with heavy bass can "evoke a sense of power and produce power-related cognition and behavior." (As if we needed research to convince us.)
Image via

Have you ever drove around and felt a surge of adrenaline as Hot 97 blared a Lex Luger-produced, subwoofer-rattling rap banger? Similarly, have you ever thought about why movie montages are always partnered with booming, epic soundtracks? Besides the sensible pairing of stimulating visuals with stimulating music for entertainment purposes, science (finally) suggests that louder bass actually inspires a real sense of power in humans on a deeper, psychological level.


According to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers have evidence that certain music "can evoke a sense of power and produce power-related cognition and behavior," uncovering "a novel antecedent of the sense of power."

The research, published under the title "The Music of Power: Perceptual and Behavioral Consequences of Powerful Music" by a team at Northwestern University elaborates:

To date, the bulk of documentation linking music and power-related phenomena is correlational and subject to alternative explanations, such as the positive emotions that may result from music listening. Hence, this research empirically tests whether music has a direct and causal effect on power and its consequences. Beyond the anecdotes previously shared, two pieces of theory support the possibility that music could causally impact power.

In their experiments, the researchers organized a series of studies where undergraduates listened to short pieces of instrumental music, once with the bass line, and once without. Afterwards, the subjects rated "how powerful, dominant, and determined they felt," and were asked to how strongly they felt certain emotions such as excitement. In a second test, the subjects filled out a word-completion test.

The team subsequently found that "psychological experiences paired with music can be triggered by hearing the music. This conditioning effect suggests that some pieces of music may become associated with power and thus hearing the music would invoke a sense of power." Not unlike Pavlov's dog, playing some UK bass records could feasibly spark abstract thinking, illusory control, and the feeling of "moving first."


Furthermore, the studies supported a second theory about the relationship between power and music:

Second, music might influence psychological processes through a contagion mechanism. In other domains, emotional contagion can occur through the human voice, in which people experience emotional states congruent to the emotions expressed in other people’s voice. 

Based on this finding, scholars have proposed that music can activate psychological experiences because listeners perceive certain experiential expressions in the music itself and subsequently mimic the same experiences internally. Thus, if some aspect of music conveys power, exposure to such music may influence the listener’s own experience and produce a state of power.__

Interestingly, changing the bass levels in the studies did not affect the subjects' positive or negative emotions. In other words, even if certain music or sounds make you feel powerful, they won't necessarily make you happier. Regardless, we now have academic evidence that indicates if we want to feel some Super Saiyan-like vibes, we better crank the bass.

Here are a couple, well, powerful tunes to make you feel some type of way:

h/t Pacific Standard


Science Reveals Artists Really Do Have Different Brains

Science Suggests Humans Are Biologically Wired To Like Art

MRI Art Exhibit Captures The Beauty Of The Human Brain