1. The Psychological and Physiological Responses to
Frequencies in Music
Mariangela Garcia, Rose Hodson, Manpreet Kaur, Alexis Lopez, & Nicole Martinez
Department of Psychology
California State University, Stanislaus
Bruckner,J.B., Hess, S., Schneider,E., Schweichel, E.
(1977). Dopamine effects on the circulation and
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Kawakami, A., Furukawa, K., Katahira, C., & Okanoya, K.
(2013). Sad music induces pleasant emotion.
Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1-15. doi:10.1037/t27579-
Salimpoor, V. N., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A.,
& Zatorre, R. J. (2011). Anatomically distinct dopamine
release during anticipation and experience of peak
emtotion to music. Nature Neuroscience, 14(2), 257-
In this study, participants were exposed to different
sound audio clips: A= 432 Hz and A= 440 Hz. Audio
preference and enjoyment were assessed alongside
physiological responses – blood oxygen levels and pulse
rate. We expected to find significant changes in heart rate
and blood oxygen levels between conditions. In addition,
we predicted that the A=440 Hz frequency would have a
higher preference rating because it is what modern music
is played in.
Our study concluded that there was a significant
difference in the preference levels of both frequencies.
Participants strongly preferred an audio track played at a
frequency of A=440Hz over an audio track played at a
frequency of A=432Hz. These results show that standard
tuning was more enjoyable, which in turn, supported our
The results of our study were inconclusive in
comparison to the findings of Bruckner et al. (1977), as
neither heart rate nor blood oxygen levels were accurately
recorded regardless of condition. Study limitations
included a very limited sample size and the readings of
heart rates and O2 levels from our pulse-oximeter were
The relationship between auditory perception and
emotional and physiological responses warrants further
investigation, as encountering and processing sound waves
is a natural phenomenon for living organisms. The
experience we call music affects us in ways that may not
be immediately apparent, and so necessitates research and
experimentation into the various responses elicited by its
explored the inherent contradiction in the enjoyment
of sad music to discover that regardless of the emotional
quality of the sound, a clip of music can produce sensations
of pleasure due to its predictable nature (Kawakami et al.,
2013) . The experience of recognition is in itself a
rewarding process in the brain. Salimpoor et al. (2010)
investigated the flow of dopamine through the brain while
listening to music, focusing on the regions that show an
increase in dopaminergic activity in response to pleasurable
The connection between dopamine production and
heart rate was provided by Bruckner et al. (1977), whose
research discovered that as dopamine levels increase in the
brain, heart rate also increases. From these studies, we can
deduce that there is a strong, positive correlation between
music that is in some way predictable or familiar, thus
causing a higher production of dopamine resulting in an
increased heart rate.
Our study sought to determine any preference
between participants exposed to different frequencies of
music. Half of the participants were exposed to audio clips
played at the standard frequency A=440Hz and the second
half were exposed to audio clips played at a frequency of
A=432Hz. We hypothesized that the A=440Hz group
would show greater preference for the music they listened
to because it was played at a familiar frequency. In
addition, we hypothesized that A=440Hz condition, being
the standard for modern music, and therefore more familiar
frequency, would elicit higher heart rates and blood oxygen
levels than the A=432Hz condition.
•4 Females, 2 Males.
•Median age 23.8 years, age range 19 to 40 years
•All participants registered via SONA
• Independent Variable: Sound Frequency
• Levels: A=440Hz and A=432Hz
• Between Subject Design
• Dependent Variables: Heart rate and oxygen levels
measured via Pulse Oximeter, frequency preference
measured via Likert Scale to assess music enjoyability
• Upon being seated, participants were asked to fill out a
consent form, and complete a short demographics
questionnaire on Qualtrics online survey.
• Participants were then asked to place the Tracks
headphones on their ears, and listen to a randomly
assigned test audio clip in order to adjust volume to their
liking. The test audio clip determined which frequency
condition the participants were exposed to.
• Researchers placed a pulse oximeter onto the left index
finger of the participant.
• Participants then listened to one of 2 audio clips that
were either in A-440Hz, or A- 432Hz while heart rate
and oxygen levels were being recorded.
• Once physiological effects were recorded participants
completed an online survey that recorded their
preference for the music piece.
• At the end of the study, participants were debriefed and
Participants’ physiological response to frequency was
measured by recording the values for heart rate and
blood oxygen levels provided by a pulse oximeter and
frequency preference was assessed by comparing
averages reported on a Likert scale for music
An independent samples t-test was run to determine if the
difference in average heart rate was significant. The
results showed that the 432Hz condition (M = 98.42, SD
= .51), had no significant difference t(4) = 1.42, .37, p
> .05, in comparison to the 440Hz condition (M = 97.63,
SD = .81). Both groups displayed similar heart rate
averages, as shown in Figure 1.
The results of an independent samples t-test for average
oxygen levels showed that the 432Hz condition (M =
72.12, SD = .7.24), was not significantly different t(4) =
1.69, p > .05, to the 440Hz condition (M =79.27 SD =
1.03), Figure 2. Both groups displayed similar oxygen
The results of an independent samples t-test for the Likert
scale of music enjoyability showed that A-440 Hz
condition (M = 5, SD = .00), was significantly preferred
over condition A-432 Hz (M = 3.33, SD = .58); t(4) = 5.00,
p.01 < .05, Figure 3.
Above, Figure 1 displays average pulse rate of participants between
conditions. Participant results showed no significant difference between
Above, Figure 2 displays average participant oxygen levels between conditions.
Results showed no significant difference, with increased oxygen levels in
condition A – 432Hz.
Above, Figure 3 displays average participant enjoyment recorded on the Likert scale.
Results show that enjoyment level was higher in the A – 440Hz condition (standard