Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Emotions Evoked by the Sound of Music: Studies 1 and 2

Zentner, M., Didier, G., & Scherer K.R. (2008). Emotions Evoked by the Sound of Music: Characterization, Classification, and Measurement. Emotion, 8, 494-521.

By: Andrea Botticelli

Empirical research has shown that music can be an effective means of mood induction. It is influential in mood manipulation to alter consumer behavior and it can also be used as a tool for treatment of emotional disorders. A pervasive element, affective reactions to music have been observed in infants as young as four months old. Moreover, brain regions activated by emotional music are similar to those activated by strong rewards such as sex, food, and drugs of abuse (494).

At present, there is no empirically derived taxonomy of musically induced emotion. This line of research strives to answer these questions: Which emotive states are most (and least) frequently induced by music? Are these “states” specific emotions? If so, how can we adequately classify and measure them? Also, how do these “music emotions” relate to extramusical emotional experience? Do music-induced emotions differ sufficiently from everyday emotions to warrant a domain-specific classification? (495).

The goal of the first study was to create a comprehensive list of suitable words to describe felt emotion. Researchers compiled a list of 515 terms of felt affect in French. They subsequently narrowed the list by using words that the majority of participants selected, eliminating unpopular words as well as repetitive, synonymous words. They reduced the list to 146 affect terms (497).

The second study examines which of these terms would be relevant in relation to music. As a basis, the researchers used 3 rating conditions, namely emotions perceived in the music, emotions induced by music, and emotions experienced in day-to-day contexts. Participants rated how often they felt a particular emotion versus how often they perceived it in music of their personal musical preferences. They also rated how often they felt these emotions in their everyday life (498).

Factor analysis yielded 10 broad factors: Tender Longing, Amazement, Tranquility, Joy, Activation, Power, Sensuality, Transcendence, Dysphoria, and Sadness. Moreover, the study demonstrated that ratings of perceived emotion differed greatly from ratings of felt emotion. Also, emotion ratings differ significantly with musical genre (499). On the whole, emotions were more perceived than felt, particularly in negative cases of sadness or dysphoria. Interestingly, tender longing and amazement were just as often perceived as felt (500).

Frequency ratings of felt musical emotions and everyday emotions differ significantly from each other. Emotions that were reported only rarely in music (despite the frequent occurrence in everyday life) were guilt, shame, jealousy, disgust, contempt, embarrassment, anger, and fear. Furthermore, the induction of positive emotions depended on the music. For instance, amazement and peacefulness were experienced more in classical music and jazz than in everyday life. In contrast, activation was more experienced with Latin American and techno music. Finally, emotions were less frequently felt in relation to music, than to be perceived as expressive properties of music

Reflection:
The empirical study of music and emotion is made more difficult because there is no general agreement as to what an “emotion” is. Accordingly, rather than use models from emotion research that may be too primitive to encompass the breadth of musical emotions (such as the basic emotion model), the researchers have decided to create a domain-specific model of musically induced emotions. I wholeheartedly agree that analyzing emotions in music should go further than discussions of angry, fearful, surprised, happy, or sad emotions. These cut and dry classifications cannot encompass the nuanced interplay of musical elements or the richly descriptive emotional experience induced by music.