York Music Psychology Group

Research to explain and understand musical behaviour and experience.

Interaction between Aesthetic Judgement and Emotional Processing of Contemporary Music

Musicologists, practitioners, and critics have recognised that contemporary music is often challenging to audiences used to traditional western music structures. However, this music can be enjoyable. We will conduct a pilot study in order to understand why some listeners respond positively and others negatively to this music, identifying the cognitive and emotional processes that facilitate those responses in concerts. Therefore, we intend to purchase an audience response system that facilitates the collection of continuous psychological and physiological markers of experience from an entire audience. This will lay the foundations for and add credibility to an AHRC application. It will also enable other researchers in the University to study audience responses.

In this pilot study, contemporary music will be performed in front of an audience (with varying knowledge and experience of this type of music). We will continuously assess the three different components of emotional responses:

a) subjective emotional experience of the music using a 2-dimensional rating interface that will be created using the software TouchOSC on iPad Minis 2. It will allow the participants to report their arousal level and pleasantness of their current emotional state.

b) activation of the peripheral nervous system by recording skin conductance and heart rate using 45 Shimmer GSR+ devices.

c) the activity of two facial muscles which are associated with emotional valence (corrugator = negative valence; zygomaticus major = positive valence) using 45 Shimmer EMG devices.

After each performance, participants will be asked to fill in an online questionnaire on their iPads. Participants will be asked to assess the music presented on a list of commonly discussed aesthetic judgement criteria, including expressivity, originality, taste, skill, and intention, that all are thought to contribute to the perceived aesthetic value of a piece of art (Juslin, 2013).

We will recruit 45 participants, which will ensure that statistical test power is high enough to test for medium sized relationships among variables. Our hypothesis is that in general, those participants that rate aesthetic values of the music higher, will show more positive activations of the three response components measured (feeling, physiological arousal, and expression), compared to those participants that rate the aesthetic value of the music lower. This finding could then be interpreted as an indication of an interaction between cognitive and affective processes.