Doctoral Dissertation

6.6.2018: M.A. Margarida Baltazar (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Musicology)


6.6.2018 9:00 — 12:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , Seminarium, vanha juhlasali, S212
Release: People use music to regulate emotions (Baltazar)
M.A. Margarida Baltazar defends her doctoral dissertation in Musicology "Where Mind and Music Meet: Affect Self-Regulation through Music". Opponent Professor Tia DeNora (University of Exeter, England) and Custos Senior Researcher Suvi Saarikallio (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Music is everywhere around us, at the reach of a fingerprint. We can listen to music while resting, working, getting ready for a party or doing dishes. Margarida Baltazar explored in her doctoral thesis how people use music for affect regulation, i.e. the modulation of emotions, mood, energy and stress, for instance.

– Overall, it was concluded that music is a resource that can have different shapes depending on the person using it as well as on the purpose. Additionally, music helps activate strategies that are useful to regulate our emotions, feelings, and moods, Baltazar says.

The results of Baltazar’s research will be of relevance to psychology and music therapy, and open ways for a better understanding of the health implications of music use.

Music is an important resource in our everyday regulation of emotions

Music has been, for a long time, an interesting topic for philosophers, mathematicians, and psychologists.

– Recently, research has shown that music is emotionally very powerful, and that people are attracted to it for this exact reason. We like music, and we like the way it makes us feel, Baltazar explains.

This aspect of music makes it a very useful – and mostly beneficial – resource for affect regulation. In the literature, we can find several studies that support this claim by collecting relevant data from interviews, observations, surveys, physiological testing and brain imaging.

However, there are still many open questions, such as, is it music itself that exerts its effects on us? Is there good music and bad music? What are the aspects of music that help us change our emotions?

People may choose music depending on their way of dealing with emotions

It is already quite clear from previous research that people choose music depending on how they are feeling. However, we do not deal with our emotions in the same way – it varies from moment to moment, and person to person. Sometimes we prefer to distract ourselves from the unpleasant feelings, sometimes we prefer to take a closer look at what is happening.

The results from Baltazar’s dissertation suggest that different ways of dealing with feelings benefit from different aspects of music.

– When people take a more analytical approach, which brings them closer to their feelings, experiences, and thoughts, they tend to use their favourite music, with meaningful lyrics or certain memories associated to it. In contrast, if people want to deal with their emotions by distracting themselves, having fun, or changing their energy, it is more relevant to focus on other aspects of music, such as, rhythm, mood of the music and sounds of the instruments, Baltazar sums up.

Stress reduction: suitable music and right strategy

One common purpose of music listening is to reduce the stress levels in our daily life. From psychology, we know that how we cope with stress influences our wellbeing and that some strategies work better than others. Also, we know that not all music relaxes us in the same way. So, when listening to music in order to relax; what counts most – the music or the strategy?

– The results of this dissertation suggest that both are important for good relaxation. However, having the right music already goes a long way, Baltazar says.

Further information:

Margarida Baltazar
041 498 4519

Communication Officer Sari Laapotti
040 805 3575

Margarida Baltazar received an Integrated Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, in 2009. She then worked as a clinical psychologist and as a piano teacher until 2013. In 2013, Margarida started her doctoral studies at the University of Jyväskylä.

The dissertation is published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in Humanities, number 345, 75 p., Jyväskylä 2018, ISSN: 1459 4323, ISBN: 978 951 39 7457 2. It is available at the University Library’s Publications Unit, tel. +358 40 805 3825,


The present dissertation focused on musical affect regulation, i.e. the use of music to self-regulate affective states, such as, emotions, moods, and energy levels. In publication I, relevant findings from previous research were extracted and the field’s conceptual clarity and precision was assessed. Besides identifying weaknesses in conceptualization and providing recommendations for future studies, publication I found that not all the elements of affect regulation through music have been equally explored by research. Given the gap observed on the study of musical mechanisms underlying affect regulation, publication II placed a special focus on this component and its association with regulation strategies. Publication II unveiled associations between musical mechanisms and regulation strategies in several layers.

Drawing from the findings in publications I and II, a conceptual model of affect regulation through music was presented in publication III. According to this model, musical activities, regulation strategies, and musical mechanisms are selected in function of the affective goal and, in deep interaction, determine the affective outcomes and wellbeing. This is a continuous process and takes place in a matrix of individual and contextual factors. To further investigate how the affective outcomes are influenced by regulation strategies and music, an experimental study was conducted. Publication IV demonstrated that the reduction of stress was influenced by the level of efficacy of the music listened to and of the strategy employed. Moreover, it was concluded that the music listened to was more determinant for the decrease of stress than the strategy instructed in the experiment.  The findings of this dissertation are relevant for research on both general affect regulation and musical regulation. This dissertation has implications for future studies on everyday uses of music and on the health outcomes of affect-related music behaviour.