Washington Post staff writer Meeri Kim discusses the link between music and its power over emotions and actions in her piece The Secret Math Behind Feel-Good Music. What is it about a certain song that can make us feel joyful, wistful, depressed, or playful?

An assistant professor in cognitive and neuroscience at the at the University of Groningen, Jacob Jolij, conducted a study focusing on the math behind “feel-good” music. His research found that tempo and key are the primary variables that make a song seem happy or sad.

The article states: “Jolij’s final equation of Feel Good Index (FGI) includes the sum of all positive references in the lyrics, the song’s tempo in beats per minute and its key. The higher a song’s FGI, the more feel-good it is predicted to be. Happy lyrics, a fast tempo of 150 beats per minute (the average pop song has a tempo of 116 beats per minute), and a major third musical key all help create music we perceive as brimming with positive emotion.”

Music is powerful and can “indirectly influence our perceptions and actions”. Research has repeatedly shown that music can help children in the classroom: to motivate, stimulate, help children focus, and aid in memory and learning retention.

So, by all means, rock on!

Fun fact: According to the study, the song that scored highest on the “Feel Good Index” was “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. Who knew?