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Giornata di studio sulle Emozioni
19 Novembre 2007, Facoltà di Psicologia, Università di Padova
Subtle emotional …. (esempio di paper) per il CD
Vanda L. Zammunera and Elisabetta Petitbon
of Developmental and Social Psychology, Padua University, Padua, Italy,
e-mail: [email protected]
The study tested the hypothesis that people’s emotion knowledge enables them to recognize subtle differences in the
emotional quality expressed by a musical piece, and thus to distinguish Tendenerness (T) from Sadness (S), and both
from Other emotions (O), such as Joy or Fear. To test the hypothesis, we designed an experiment in which subjects
(N=24, half of whom musicians) expressed their perception, while listening to the music, at two points in time for each
piece, i.e., at 40sec and at 80 sec. Their latency in response time (reaction time, RT), as well as their verbal rating on a 7point T-0-S Likert-type scale, were recorded. Experimental stimuli were 40 classical music pieces, for orchestra or solo
instruments (e.g., piano; violin and piano), each lasting 85 seconds, selected from XVII-XX century repertoire, by several
authors (Fauré, Grieg, Beethoven, Chopin, etc.) that contained the structures characterizing (Sloboda & Juslin 2001)
either S or T (e.g., Slow tempo for both; Soft timbre for T; Dull timbre for S), or structures expressive of O. Pieces either
expressed a single emotional quality, namely T-T, S-S, O-O, or changed it midway, i.e. had the sequence T-S, T-O, and
S-O. 28 new stimuli were created, by reversing original sequences, to obtain S-T (N=20), O-T (N =4), and O-S (N=4)
sequences, none of which was exhibited by the original pieces. The final stimuli therefore comprised 68 musical pieces,
subdivided in 9 Types as a function of what emotion the piece expressed at 40'' and 85''. The results overall confirmed the
hypothesis, but also showed that perception is influenced by such variables as musical expertise, and 'location' of an
emotional quality within a musical piece (e.g., Tenderness is most easily perceived in single-emotion pieces, and least
distinguished from Sadness when it follows it rather than preceding it).
The most general hypothesis of this study,
coherently with results reported in the literature
(e.g., Gabrielsson & Juslin, 2003) is that emotion
knowledge does includes the ability to recognize
different emotions that might be expressed by a
musical piece.
Emotions and music are phenomena that
seem to share a number of features - possibly
testifing their functional importance. For instance,
both are universal, that is, are present in very
different cultures, from the pre-literate ones to our
'advanced' one; emotions and vocal-musical
expression of some sort characterize mammals,
humans included, although in different forms (e.g.,
consider facial and acoustic expressions/signals of
anger, or of distress or sorrow; see e.g.,
Gabrielsson & Juslin, 2003; Scherer, Johnstone, &
Klasmeyer, 2003). According to a viewpoint
expressed both by lay people and scientists, the
relationship between emotions and music is so
intimate that music "is the expression of emotions"
(Cooke, 1959), "is the language of passion"
(Benestad, 1978), and "can reveal the nature of
feelings with a detail and truth that language
cannot apporoach" (Langer, 1957, 235; all three
quotes are taken from Gabrielsson & Juslin, 2003).
If this relationship is indeed so strong, then we
have one reason more to expect that people leaving for a moment cultural and personal
variables aside - have no difficulty recognizing
whatever emotion is expressed by a musical piece.
We should consider, furthermore, that musical
expressiveness can count on a wide range of
dynamic factors to convey its emotional point
Emotional competence and the
perception of emotions in music
The focus of this study is on the extent to which
people are able to recognize the emotional quality
of a musical piece. A relevant assumption here is
that people have a rich emotion knowledge, mostly
developed during their life course, that enables
them to understand, as well as to manage, their
transactions with the world as regards emotional
aspects of such transactions (e.g., Zammuner
2000). Emotion knowledge is likely to be extensive
because emotional experiences pervade our entire
life, both directly and indirectly. The occasions to
learn about emotion(s) are countless, based both on
our own experiences, and on others’; e.g., when we
observe how, when and why others (even fictitious
ones, as in movies) experience emotions.
Moreover, we are motivated to become emotionally
competent, that is, to learn as much as possible in
this domain (revising our knowledge if necessary)
because emotional incompetence is likely to make
us feel bad, or result in social rejection and
loneliness, greater stress, and so forth [e.g., Saarni
1990]. Emotion knowledge includes knowledge
about different aspects pertaining to emotions, such
as, what events trigger this or that emotion, and
what emotions are expressed by different facial
expressions, or by different words, or by a certain
posture (see, for instance, Lewis and Haviland
Giornata di studio sulle Emozioni
19 Novembre 2007, Facoltà di Psicologia, Università di Padova
(Stern, 1985), such as mode, tempo, tone, melodic
direction, rhythm, armony, and pitch level (e.g.,
Hevner, 1936; Batel, 1976). For instance, minor
mode is typically associated with low-arousal
emotions such as sadness or yearning, whereas
major mode is associated with pleasant, higharousal emotions such as cheerfulness and joy (for
a review, see Gabrielsson & Juslin, 2003). Finally,
music can convey much better than other
expressive modes the dynamic, non-static nature of
emotions themselves, and their evolution and
changes in time as regards their intensity peaks and
fluctuations, their strenght, their duration and so
forth. Music can certainly convey not only the
dynamic force of the emotional life, as suggested
by Susanne Langer (1951, 202), but also express,
we believe, specific emotions.
Whatever the way by which music elicits
emotions (and it does, as suggested by hundreds of
successful mood-induction experiments; for a
review see Vastfjall 2003), or whatever the
emotions that a composer wanted his/her music to
express, or a performer musician attempted to
convey, music qualifies as an optimal emotional
medium. As early as the thirties of the last century,
and shortly afterwards, several researchers,
including Gundlach (1935), Hapton (1945),
Capurso (1952), and Sopchak (1955) studied the
perception of emotions by having subjects listen to
a music piece and then choose a descriptive term
from a list. The results of these studies, and of
similar ones that were carried out later (see
Gabrielsson & Juslin, 2003), showed that a variety
of emotions, including pleasant ones such as happy
or glad, unpleasant ones, such as sadness, and highand low-arausal ones, such as angry and relaxing,
were 'recognized' by most subjects. Research on
emotions in music has never stopped, but it has
boomed in the last few decades, characterized by a
variety of methods and measurement options,
questionnaires, and physiological measures such as
electroencephalogram, and electrocardiogram. The
most recent conceptual and measurement
advancement is the emphasis on the need for
continuous recording of emotion perception. A few
researchers have contributed much to this aim, for
instance with the creation of the “Tensiotong”, by
measurement of perceived tension in music, or the
of computer programs, such as the Continuous
Response Digital Interface” (CRDI), used by
Madsen e Fredrickson (1993) to measure the
perceived tension, or, finally, the Two-dimensional
emotion-space (2DES) by Schubert (1996) that
allows continuous recording of emotion perception
along both the dimensions of Valence (hedonic
dimension) and Arousal. The most recent studies
(see also Sloboda, Juslin, 2001) altogether confirm
that 'basic' emotional qualities (e.g., sadness, joy)
expressed in a music are readily perceived, whereas
appreciation of emotional 'nuances' (e.g., yearning,
calm, sorrow, tenderness) is less frequent, more
troublesome, and seems to vary much as a function
of, among others, selection of music subjects listen
to, musical expertise, and response method.
The study. The specific hypothesis tested in
this study was that people are able to make fine
discriminations of emotional qualities in music,
and, more specifically, are able to distinguish
sadness, a so-called 'basic' emotion, from
tenderness, an emotion that is often described as a
'blended' or 'complex' emotion, and not as a 'basic'
one. Both emotions are quite frequently
experienced, directly or indirectly, in daily life:
sadness, a dysphoric emotion, is typically
associated with subjectively unpleasant events,
whereas tenderness, a pleasant emotion, is likely to
be felt mostly in association with people or 'objects'
that move us, touch our sensitivity, our social
bonds. Both emotions are very important for us at
the social and personal level - just imagine what
would happen if someone were not able to
experience them, in fit circumstances, or to
recognize them in others. A peculiar feature of
sadness and tenderness as they are expressed in
music is that they share most of their characterizing
structures (see the Method section), a fact that
might explain why people might find it difficult to
discriminate among them, as indeed was found by
Laukka & Gabrielsson (2000).
However, how emotion perception is tested
does matter, as suggested by recent developments
in emotion-and-music research. We therefore used
an experimental design, and an assessment
method, whose features altogether could allow us
to overcome past failures in support of the
hypothesis that people are able to detect nuanced
emotional qualities in music. More specifically, the
study: (a) used a large set of carefully selected
experimental stimuli, (b) employed a fine and
robust measure, that is, latency in response time
(reaction time, RT), a novel measure in this kind of
experiment, as well as the more usual ratings on a
Likert-type scale, (c) had subjects record their
peception while listening to music, at two points in
time for each musical piece, that is, using (a
somewhat rough version of) continuous recording,
(d) tested the effects of musical expertise (experts
were expected to report more accurate perceptions
than non-experts), (e) assessed the effects of
emotional-quality changes within the musical piece
(vs. single-emotion pieces, expected to elicit more
accurate perception), (f) assessed the effects of
direction changes (e.g., from sadness to tenderness,
or vice versa), and, finally, (g) assessed the effects
of changes in main musical structures (e.g., from
joy or fear to sadness, vs. from tenderness to
sadness). The next section describes the method in
greater detail.
Giornata di studio sulle Emozioni
19 Novembre 2007, Facoltà di Psicologia, Università di Padova
Figure 1. Spectre examples of the original (1a) and
modified version (1b) of a selected music piece - from
"Pavane pour orchestre" (Romances sans paroles, Op.
17) by G. Fauré. In 1a Tenderness is expressed in the
beginning part, from 0'' to 40'', whereas Sadness is
expressed in the second half of the piece, from 40'' to
85''. In the modified version in 1b, Sadness is expressed
in the first half, and Tenderness in the last part of the
listening period, from 40'' to 85''.
Experimental stimuli. According to a review by
Sloboda & Juslin (2001) of the determinants of
perceived emotional quality, Sadness and (…) Dull
timbre, Flat microintonation, and, for string and
wind instruments, Slow and intense vibrato.
As experimental stimuli wei selected, from
XVII to XX century classical repertoire, 40 music
pieces, each lasting 85 seconds; of these, 18 were
for orchestra, 11 for piano, 4 for violin and piano,
and the remaining ones for other instruments (e.g.,
violin and orchestra). A first selection criterion
was that they contained the above listed structures
characterizing either Sadness and Tenderness (36
pieces in total ii, including pieces by Fauré, Grieg,
Ginastera, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy,
Villa Lobos, Sibelius, Ravel, Handel, W. Bird,
Saint-Saens, and Telemann), or different
structures, that is, structures expressing an Other
emotion, such as Joy or Fear (4 pieces, by Grieg,
Vivaldi, Mozart, and Paganini).
An additional selection criterion was that
the emotional-quality expressed by a piece would
change midway. In 28 out of 40 selected pieces,
changes occurred in one of 3 directions, namely:
(a) from Tenderness to Sadness (T-S), and (b)
from Tenderness or Sadness to an emotion that
was neither Tenderness or Sadness (T-O, S-O).
Changes not occuring in the original pieces were
(…) n in Table 1.
E 40'' Rating E 85'' Rating
Pre-Test of experimental stimuli. The 68
experimental stimuli were pre-tested with 8 experts
- musicians enrolled at the 8th year of piano at the
Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi (Milano, I) - who
listened to them in a mp3 format from a stereo CD
equipment and judged them using a 7-point bipolar
Likert scale, with the extremes labeled Tenderness
(left) and Sadness (right) - the ascending values 1,
2, 3 followed, left and right, an intermediate zero.
Experts gave 2 paper-and-pencil ratings of each
piece, at 40'', and at 80'' (i.e., while the music was
still on for another 5"). Their ratings confirmed the
Table 1. The 68 musical stimuli categorized into 9
Types, as a function of the Expressed emotion E at
40'' and at 85'': T: Tenderness; S: Sadness; O: Other
Emotion (e.g., Joy or Fear), and their mean Rating
on a 1-7 scale (1=T, 4=O, 7=S). M: modified
1a. Original partial trace
1b . Modified partial trace
presence of Sadness, Tenderness, and Other
Emotion in the 68 pieces as hypothesized
according to Table 1 categorization.
Subjects, Experimental design, and Procedure.
Subjects were 24 university students, 12 musicians
and 12 non-musicians, whith a mean age of 26.2
years (range: 20-30). The experiment that took part
in a laboratory roomiii, began by asking subjects to
fill in a questionnaire about their musical habits
and preferences (e.g., How often do you listen to
music? 0-4, Never-All the time; With whom …?;
How much do you like each of the following (…)
whose emotional quality at 80" did not change
from that expressed at 40"), whereas 28 differed
between the groups but were expected to be
equivalent in expressed emotional quality.
Giornata di studio sulle Emozioni
19 Novembre 2007, Facoltà di Psicologia, Università di Padova
P. N. (2001). Music and Emotion: Theory and
research. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gabrielsson, A. and Juslin, P.N. (2003).
Emotional Expression in Music, in R.J.
Davidson, H.H. Goldsmith and K.R. Scherer
(eds) Handbook of Affective Sciences, pp. 503534. New York: Oxford University Press.
Langer, S. (1951). Philosophy in a new Key
(2nd ed.). New York: New American Library.
Laukka, P., Gabrielsson, A. (2000).
performance”. Psychology of Music, 28(2), 181189.
Madesen, C. K., Fredrikson, W. E. (1993).
The experience of music tension. A replication of
Nielsen’s research using the Continuous
Response Digital Interface. Journal of Music
Therapy, 30, pp. 46-63.
Russell, J. A. (1980). A circumplex model
of affect. Journal of Personalità and Social
Psychology, 37, pp. 345-356.
Zammuner, V. L. (1996). Le Emozioni, in
Arcuri, L. Manuale di Psicologia Sociale, Il
Mulino, Bologna, Cap. 5, pp. 161-195.
Zentner, M. R., Meylan,S., Scherer, K. R.
(2000). Exploring musical emotions across five
genres of music. Intervento presentato al 6th
International Conference of the society for Music
Perception and Cognition (ICMPC). Agosto 510, 2000, Keele, UK.
Subjects' ratings at 40'' and at 85'' (see Table 1 for
a summary), and related reaction times, were
analyzed in several repeated measures analysis of
variance. A first inspection of the results showed
that although individual ratings spanned the entire
scale, subjects mostly avoided the extremes: mean
minimum recoded ratings, ranged from 2.17 to
2.92, and were obtained at 40" for stimuli
expressing Tenderness (e.g., such as 7-17, 2-12, 313, 10-20, Type 2). Mean maximum ratings, from
5.79 to 6.29 were instead obtained for stimuli (e.g.,
45 and 46) expressing Sadness at both 40" and 80"
(Type 7). Average reaction times (RT) to
individual stimuli ranged from 933 msec, for piece
51 at 40" (Type 4), expressing Other emotion, to
1813 msec, for piece 11 at 80" (Type 2),
expressing Sadness.
A first set of analyses showed that subject Groups
-who often judged equivalent stimuli - did not
typically differ significantly neither in their
ratings, nor in their reaction times RT, as
exemplified by Figure 2 that shows how the two
groups judged pieces categorized as Types.1, 4,
and 7. In subsequent analyses thus Group was not
included as an experimental variable.
The analysis of all musical piece ratings at
40'' and 80”, that is, of what emotion was
expressed in a piece, either in the beginning or the
actually on average obtained.lower ratings than the
former. Position of the expressed emotional quality
within the piece was however a crucial variable in
many cases, the most notable being related to
Tenderness: it was perceived as such most clearly
when it appeared at the beginning of a musical
piece that then changed into Sadness (see Table 1).
As regards the effect of musical expertise, results
were varied but overall confirmed the hypothesis
that musicians are better able to discriminate subtle
emotional quality than non-musicians. In
particular, musicians did perceive Tenderness
more accurately than non-musicians (Emotional
quality by Expertise, when comparing all
Tenderness with all Other emotion pieces (F (1,22)
= 4.28, p. .05).
In sum, the obtanined results – of which here
we report only some of the main ones - confirmed
our hypothesis that people are able to make subtle
music discriminations.
i All stimuli were selected, and modified, by E.
Petitbon, who has had an extensive musical education.
ii Noneofthepiecesincluded either thestructure Final ritardandobecause
none was selected fromtheendpartofacomposition,norSlowand intense
vibrato,typicalofstring and wind instruments.In sum, in theselected pieces2
outof9 structuralcharacteristics coulddifferentiateSadnessfromTenderness)
iii We wish to thank Sandro Bettella, of the Depatment
of General Psychology, for his kind help in preparing th
Ekman, P. (1992). An argument for basic
emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 6, pp.169200.
Gabrielsson, A. (2001). Emotions in strong
experiences with music. In Sloboda, J. A., Juslin,