What Music Makes You Feel More Powerful?
What Music Makes You Feel More Powerful?

Updated October 2019

We all know that music can have a strong effect on our emotions (I’ve only ever met one person who claimed that music didn’t affect her at all). And there was a study done back in 2014 about which types of music can make you powerful before you present, and lead to “higher perceived control over social events”.

The study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, was inspired by the pre-game routines of athletes (Hsu et al., 2014). The authors explored 31 pieces from different genres of music (sports music, heavy metal, punk, reggae, and hip-hop).

They then tested which elements of the music worked best to stimulate feelings of power. Power-inducing music produces 3 known important consequences of power, all of them helpful for public speakers:

  1. abstract thinking – our ability to see the forest for the trees
  2. illusory control – how much we believe we have personal control over future events
  3. moving first – our tendency to ‘put our hand up’ and volunteer to go first in a group

So which music worked best? The songs with a low bass-line. (The researchers ensured that the lyrics weren’t a factor, it was the music itself.)

The songs which came out on top were:

  • Queen’s “We Will Rock You”
  • 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This”

As the author says, we tend to associate power with deep voices – “indeed, the solid bass voice and deep breathing sound produced by James Earl Jones as Darth Vader in the Star Wars movie series has remained one of the most iconic theatric demonstrations of power (Schmidt, 2011)”.

Here are clips of the 2 songs if you’d like to test their impact on you!

2 Unlimited: 

So what songs with a strong bass-line can you pick out to help you before your next presentation? Any tool you can use which makes you feel more powerful before you present is going to be useful, to counteract the vulnerable aspects of being in front of a group. Personally I like songs with a strong rhythmic driving beat, and a powerful bass-line is frequently a part of that. (the 2 Unlimited clip makes me agitated – but I am a trained Classical pianist, so that makes sense!)

I’m a big fan of using music to help pump you up before presentations, and have my own playlist of favourites; and I always recommend this to clients too. What do you think? What music can make you powerful before you present?

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