The effects of music attention and music imagery on mood and salivary cortisol following a speech stress task

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Interdepartmental Studies

First Committee Member

Ron E. Franco Duran - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Myra J. Jordan - Committee Member


This study used a laboratory model to explore potential stress buffering effects of two commonly used music therapy treatments: music-evoked imagery and focused attention to music, as measured by levels of salivary cortisol and mood. Potential differential effects for subjects with high or low scores on Emotional Approach Coping (EAC) were investigated. Subjects were excluded for short BDI score above 9, diagnosis of mental disorder, serious physical health problems, acute infectious illness, use of steroid medications, cigarette smoking, recreational drug use, and alcohol consumption over 5 drinks/week. After screening, 76 female college students were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions with modified progressive muscle relaxation followed by either Imagery to music (I), Attention to music listening (A), or Silence (S). Both music conditions listened to a 9-minute excerpt of the 4th movement of Strauss' A Hero's Life. All subjects were first asked to prepare a script of a speech on personal sources of stress, to be videotaped before a critical rater following the I, A, or S conditions. Repeated measures of cortisol in saliva, POMS tension/anxiety and total mood disturbance (TMD), and PANAS positive and negative affects were taken before and after speech preparation, and again following the I, A, or S condition. Groups were equivalent in age, music learning experience, mean scores for EAC, and baseline levels of salivary cortisol, tension, and total mood disturbance. No overall group by time difference was found for POMS tension/anxiety. After controlling for baseline levels, the group effect for total mood disturbance was significant at the .10 level, with mean TMD levels higher for silence and lower for music conditions, relative to baseline. Results also indicate greater decrease in salivary cortisol and total mood disturbance levels after music treatments, particularly for young female adults with high levels of emotional approach coping. Findings suggest that music imagery and music listening may result in higher levels of positive affect during treatment, as compared to relaxation in silence. Further research is indicated. Recommendations are offered for investigating potential stress buffering effects of treatments with music-evoked imagery or with focused attention to music.


Health Sciences, Rehabilitation and Therapy; Music; Psychology, Physiological

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