We all know that music has the ability to change our mood. Listening to Taylor Swift’s sweet, upbeat lyrics makes you want to jump around the room and hug your enemies … while listening to Kendrick Lamar’s poignant political rants makes you want to start the revolution. But does listening to, say, Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” actually make you want to get it on?
Surprisingly, there’s been a ton of research on the psychological effects of sexy song lyrics, and even more surprisingly, those lyrics do a whole lot more than just get you in the mood:
You’re more likely to give your number out to strangers
When we say “strangers,” we don’t mean that when Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” comes on, you’re going to start handing out your number to any and every rando walking down the street. However, when a new acquaintance asks for your number, you’re more likely to divulge your digits if you’ve been listening to romantic music.
That’s what French researchers found in an experiment involving 18- to 20-year-old males and females. The women were divided into two groups; one group listened to romantic music and the other to neutral music. The guys, who were supposedly just administering a marketing survey, would ask for their numbers during a break; those who had listened to the romantic songs were far more willing to share it.
So just like you’d wait for the slow song to ask someone to dance, maybe try waiting for it to ask for their contact info?
You focus more on people’s looks and ignore their personalities
Maybe you’re normally too picky when browsing OK Cupid. You read that someone’s hobbies include “canoeing, hiking and biking,” and you might be kind of bored. But if you read those hobbies after listening to some Ray J, you might think, “Mmmmm, sex in a canoe.”
That’s according to a study conducted by University of North Carolina professor Dr. Francesca Dillman Carpentier, who found that people exposed to sexual music (as opposed to nonsexual music) before reading anonymous dating profiles were more likely to judge each profile in terms of the person’s physical appeal rather than, as she told MTV News, “more wholesome characteristics like reliability, honesty, trustworthiness and intelligence.”
The next time someone accuses you of being superficial, just blame your iTunes library!
You’re more likely to hire someone … or let them into your fraternity/sorority
As mentioned above, when you hear sexy song lyrics, you’ll think about people in a more sexual way. Here’s where it gets weird: you may also think of them as more capable and reliable.
According to a separate study by Dr. Dillman Carpentier, a man exposed to sexy music will think more positively of both women and other men, and a woman exposed to it will think likewise; this effect isn’t much affected by gender or sexual preference. As Dr. Dillman Carpentier told us, it’s “like looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, only steamier.”
Because her research was conducted on college students, Dr. Dillman Carpentier believes ambient sexy music could alter the outcome of students “rushing for sororities or fraternities, applying for a job in a bar/restaurant establishment where the manager is a younger adult and the interview takes place in the establishment, or auditioning for some position or role on campus.” Maybe that portable speaker you got for Christmas isn’t just good for beach trips.
Depending on the lyrics, you may feel anger at the opposite sex
It’s not going to surprise anyone that certain lyrics are both sexual and insulting. According to a study from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich on these “sexual-aggressive song lyrics,” men exposed to misogynistic lyrics and women exposed to “men-hating song lyrics” became focused more on the opposite sex’s negative attributes and had “more feelings of vengeance.”
This may affect behavior in scary ways. The researchers played misogynistic songs to one group of male participants and neutral songs to another group, then asked each participant to dole out chili sauce to men and women. The men who listened to misogynistic music gave more chili sauce to the women than to the other guys.
Think about that for a moment. “Here Ted, you get a little bit of hot sauce to give your meal some pep. And Laura, because of the album I just listened to on repeat, here’s enough hot sauce to melt your digestive tract.” WTF?
Music itself may affect your brain just like sex
Your favorite songs, regardless of whether they’re actually about sex, are probably hitting the same pleasure center in your brain that hooking up does. Sex releases a chemical called dopamine, which is what causes feelings of elation and well-being. Well, neurological researchers at Montreal’s McGill University found that when you listen to music you like, your brain does the exact same thing. In fact, the dopamine not only gets released during the part of the song that you find most pleasurable, but approximately 10-15 seconds before.
According to Dr. Robert Zattore, the lead researcher of the study, “As you’re anticipating a moment of pleasure, you’re making predictions about what you’re hearing and what you’re about to hear. Part of the pleasure we derive from it is being able to make predictions.”
So just like with sex, music makes your brain get excited at the very idea of getting excited.