Music and Psychology: A Practitioner’s guide

Presentation slides: Psychology y2 presentation

Screencast and reference list:

This short screencast acts as a guide for practitioners to prescribe and integrate music into an athlete’s regime, with the aim of developing their athlete’s performance. Covered inside is:

Flow, the state of optimal physiological and psychological harmony, which motivates peak performance in athletes. This can be used in training and performance to enhance all performance, and serves to decrease perception of exertion, which is key in rehabilitation and health-based clientele.

The use of music as physiological and psychological aids

Considerations for the prescription of music


The benefits of music are applicable to athletes in most cases, including rehabilitation and pre-training. Athletes can use music to dull fatigue, pain and perceived exertion, making exercise more enjoyable and less painful. Not only can this influence participation rates in exercise referral schemes and health clientele, it also reduces the effects of burnout and frustration associated with rehabilitation of injured athletes.

In addition, there is strong correlations between heart rate and music tempo (BPM) that imply rhythm response can dictate physiological state and can be used to influence cardiovascular workload by deliberately increasing or decreasing HR through use of music. This correlation also allows for the use of music as a warm-up aid in addition to pre-performance motivation, which further validates its use in professional athletes. More research also links music to an increase in running economy via the stimulation of task-relevant thoughts, which decrease oxygen consumption at a given intensity. These factors combine to offer an increased time to fatigue, and higher aerobic capacity when running with music. This trend would likely continue in anaerobic and sprint events but requires further research to be completed.

Psychological benefits are numerous, especially given the impact mentality has on performance in sport. Music is shown to increase time to exhaustion, decrease RPE and acts as an effective mood enhancer for athletes prior to and during performance, which allows for an athlete to enter flow states, ensuring optimal performance in an event. Furthermore, music can act as an effective countermeasure against performance anxiety by increasing intrinsic motivation prior to performance, if used in the correct context. The contrast is also true, with calming music increasing performance in shooting, archery and curling, which comes from an increased motivation via flow, and the decreased heart rate associated with slower tempo music.

“Flow” describes the state of harmony between psychology, physiology and motivation, optimising performance through these factors. Flow increases task awareness while decreasing environmental distractors, enhancing intrinsic motivation and performance output in most physiological measures, including peak power development and aerobic endurance (Pates, J., Karageorghis, C. I., Fryer, R., & Maynard, I. 2003). Use of music to induce flow is effective in recreational and elite athletes, highlighting music’s efficacy as an ergogenic aid for all athletes, but requires precise selection and usage to attain maximal benefits, as with any ergogenic aid. Overall, practitioners should consider the liberal use of music as an ergogenic aid, but carefully tailor the use of music to the expected and desired outcomes prior to performance.


(See presentation final slide for full reference list)

Pates, J., Karageorghis, C. I., Fryer, R., & Maynard, I. (2003). Effects of asynchronous music on flow states and shooting performance among netball players. Psychology of Sport and Exercise4(4), 415-427.

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