Proceedings abstract



Marcel R. Zentner

Department of Psychology

University of Geneva

40, Bd. du Pont d'Arve

CH - 1205 Geneva



  1. Scholars tend to rely upon labels of every-day life emotions when studying emotional responses to music. However, it is unclear whether such emotional labels are musically plausible.
  2. While past research has systematically examined the efficacy of different film excerpts to induce emotion, comparable research with music excerpts is still fragmentary.

Aims & Methods:

Two studies with participants from diverse populations and age groups were conducted to empirically examine the nature, structure, and organisation of musical emotions and to identify music excerpts that are effective in eliciting certain emotions. The aim of Study 1 was to provide an empirical basis for developing a lexicon of musically plausible affect terms. 138 subjects had to rate 149 affect terms (derived from a pre-study) in regard to the frequency with which these states were both expressed and induced by their preferred style of music (classical, pop-rock, or techno). Rarely occurring states were excluded yielding a reduction of approx. 80 emotion labels. The aim of the second study was (a) gather comparative ratings on the emotional effects of a variety of music excerpts, (b) examine the basic dimensions of musical emotions, and (c) on this basis, refine our lexicon of musically plausible affect terms. Subjects (N=184) listened to 20 excerpts of either classical or rock-music and rated them on the new set of emotion words derived from Study 1.


Study 1: First, occurrence of emotions, be they expressed or induced, differs according to the musical style. Second, across all emotions and musical styles, there is a considerable difference between expression and arousal of emotion. Third, there are also significant interactions between emotion clusters, musical styles and emotion modality (expressed vs. induced).

Study 2: Factor analyses were carried out to identify a number of basic "musical emotions". Furthermore, the proposenity of the music excerpts to arouse different emotions is described.


Implications are discussed for the development of a taxonomy of "musical emotions", a scale to measure "musical emotions", and for the choice of music excerpts to be used for emotion induction.

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