York Music Psychology Group

Research to explain and understand musical behaviour and experience.

Aesthetic Judgement and Contemporary Music

On Saturday the YMPG held our first major study since our conception.

The study was concerned with understanding why some listeners respond positively and others negatively to contemporary music and identifying the cognitive and emotional processes that facilitate those responses in concerts.

In this study, contemporary music was performed in front of an audience (with varying experience of this type of music). ‘Experience’ being defined by previous knowledge and the lecture provided, with those attending Federico’s lecture having far more information about the music than those who attended Cade’s (which was about a completely unrelated topic).

During the performances we were testing:

a) activation of the peripheral nervous system by recording skin conductance and heart rate using a Shimmer GSR+ devices.
b) the activity of two facial muscles which are associated with emotional valence (corrugator = negative valence; zygomaticus major = positive valence) using a Shimmer EMG devices.

17038840_1215825458472613_2285010541271728819_oThe hypothesis was that in general, those participants that rate aesthetic values of the music higher on the questionnaires, will show more positive activations of the response components measured (physiological arousal, and expression), compared to those participants that rate the aesthetic value of the music lower.

The results of this study will initially be presented at this year’s European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music conference and subsequently as a research article in an scientific journal.

Huge thanks to all of our participants and especially to the members of the YMPG (Briony, Beth, Queen and Lottie) who were hugely helpful with set up and smooth running of the day!