Music found to induce cooperative behavior: Upbeat tunes improve mood, inspire teamwork
07/23/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

Employees are used to the background music that often plays while they're at work, but is it possible to boost teamwork by playing the right kinds of songs?

Based on the results of a study by researchers from Cornell University, "music can also have important effects on workers."

Dr. Kevin Kniffin, the study's lead author and behavioral scientist at Cornell University, explains that music is a pervasive part of modern life and that it sometimes melts "into the background at supermarkets or gyms and other times it's more prominent like in places of worship or at presidential nominating conventions." While individuals consider music an essential part of their lives, earlier studies have been unable to look into the importance employees place on music in their environment because it is often taken for granted.

For the paper, Dr. Kniffin and his colleagues from Cornwell, Dr. Jubo Yan, Dr. Brian Wansink, and Dr. William Schulze, referenced two separate studies that they spearheaded to evaluate the influence of different types of music on the cooperative behavior of 266 people.

In each study, the participants were organized into groups of three and given tokens. The members of each group were presented with "multiple opportunities to contribute to the team’s value" by using the tokens. They also had the options to keep the tokens for themselves.

In both studies, when music like Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, which has an upbeat tune and is deemed a "happy" song, is played, the chances that team members would use the tokens to boost the group's value was higher, unlike when "unpleasant" music was played or if there was no music at all. This proves that happy music can encourage employees to make decisions that can benefit the whole team.


Dr. Kniffin shares that "music with rhythm" often boosts a person's mood, and the results of their studies reveal that there is a higher chance that individuals can work well together once they're listening to music that has a steady beat.

Dr. Wasink, study co-author and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, notes that aside from having a scientific reason to let employees listen to some music while they're working, happy music is an effective way of fostering cooperation among workers and positively influencing their mood.

How to boost your mood with music therapy

If you want to improve your mood with music therapy while you're at home or if you have free time at work, try some of the tips below:

  1. Play some soft, relaxing music at a moderate level. Make sure that the volume isn't high enough to distract you and that you can hear the melody or instrumental. Find a quiet space and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing as you try to harmonize with the music. Relax and free your mind from worries. (Related: MUSIC over MEDS: Comprehensive study will examine benefits of music as a natural healing force.)
  2.  Try to learn how to play an instrument. If you're feeling down, rocking out on a guitar or trying out some melodies on a ukelele can help cheer you up. Playing an instrument is just another way to help you channel your creativity and it can also help you de-stress when you are feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Listen to upbeat music that you can dance to. Clear some space in the living room, play some of your favorite songs, and dance your worries away.
  4. Listen to music while you're doing one or a couple of your daily activities. Enjoy some music whether you're washing the dishes or working out. Keep in mind that this will only work if you choose music that "complements" the task, such as classical music when you're starting a project for the office or an upbeat playlist when you're shooting some hoops.

You can learn more about other interesting scientific discoveries about music and other arts at

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