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It's not what you play, it's how you play it: timbre affects perception of emotion in music.

Hailstone JC, Omar R, Henley SM, Frost C, Kenward MG, Warren JD - Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) (2009)

Bottom Line: Using a generalized linear mixed model we found a significant interaction between instrument and emotion judgement with a similar pattern in young and older adults (p < .0001 for each age group).The effect was not attributable to musical expertise.Our findings show that timbre (instrument identity) independently affects the perception of emotions in music after controlling for other acoustic, cognitive, and performance factors.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Dementia Research Centre, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK.

ABSTRACT
Salient sensory experiences often have a strong emotional tone, but the neuropsychological relations between perceptual characteristics of sensory objects and the affective information they convey remain poorly defined. Here we addressed the relationship between sound identity and emotional information using music. In two experiments, we investigated whether perception of emotions is influenced by altering the musical instrument on which the music is played, independently of other musical features. In the first experiment, 40 novel melodies each representing one of four emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, or anger) were each recorded on four different instruments (an electronic synthesizer, a piano, a violin, and a trumpet), controlling for melody, tempo, and loudness between instruments. Healthy participants (23 young adults aged 18-30 years, 24 older adults aged 58-75 years) were asked to select which emotion they thought each musical stimulus represented in a four-alternative forced-choice task. Using a generalized linear mixed model we found a significant interaction between instrument and emotion judgement with a similar pattern in young and older adults (p < .0001 for each age group). The effect was not attributable to musical expertise. In the second experiment using the same melodies and experimental design, the interaction between timbre and perceived emotion was replicated (p < .05) in another group of young adults for novel synthetic timbres designed to incorporate timbral cues to particular emotions. Our findings show that timbre (instrument identity) independently affects the perception of emotions in music after controlling for other acoustic, cognitive, and performance factors.

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Mean scores (/10) for each intended emotion for each “real” instrument in young (left) and older (right) adult participants. H, happiness; S, sadness; A, anger; F, fear.
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Figure 2: Mean scores (/10) for each intended emotion for each “real” instrument in young (left) and older (right) adult participants. H, happiness; S, sadness; A, anger; F, fear.

Mentions: For young participants, the mean number of “correct” responses (score /10) for each target emotion are displayed in Figure 2, and the odds ratios for a “correct” (intended) response for each combination of instrument and emotion (adjusted for order of instrument presentation), relative to the odds of a “correct” (intended) response for “happy” melodies played on the piano, are shown in Table 2. Odds ratios that are larger than 1 are indicative of an increased probability of a correct response relative to that for a “happy” melody on the piano. Those that are smaller than 1 are indicative of a reduced probability. The 95% confidence intervals that do not include 1 are statistically significant at the 5% level, but individual results must be interpreted cautiously given the number of pair-wise comparisons that can be made. Strictly, participant responses here can be assessed only relative to the target emotion intended by the experimenters, since the criteria for a “correct” emotion judgement were not absolute but were defined by the experimenters. Although a global test of differences between the odds of an intended (correct) response by instrument (averaging over emotions) was statistically significant (p = .006), the probability of an intended response was similar for each instrument (range .74–.78). However, the odds of an intended response differed substantially (p < .0001) between emotions. The mean probability of an intended response was similar for “happy” and “sad” melodies and markedly reduced for “angry” and “fearful” melodies, though identification of both anger and fear were still well above what would be expected by chance. For each melody the target emotion was selected most frequently. There was a statistically significant interaction between instrument and emotion judgement (p < .0001): For “happy” melodies the odds of an intended response were lower for the violin than for the other instruments, while for “sad” melodies, the odds of an intended response were lower for the synthesizer than for the other instruments.


It's not what you play, it's how you play it: timbre affects perception of emotion in music.

Hailstone JC, Omar R, Henley SM, Frost C, Kenward MG, Warren JD - Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) (2009)

Mean scores (/10) for each intended emotion for each “real” instrument in young (left) and older (right) adult participants. H, happiness; S, sadness; A, anger; F, fear.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2683716&req=5

Figure 2: Mean scores (/10) for each intended emotion for each “real” instrument in young (left) and older (right) adult participants. H, happiness; S, sadness; A, anger; F, fear.
Mentions: For young participants, the mean number of “correct” responses (score /10) for each target emotion are displayed in Figure 2, and the odds ratios for a “correct” (intended) response for each combination of instrument and emotion (adjusted for order of instrument presentation), relative to the odds of a “correct” (intended) response for “happy” melodies played on the piano, are shown in Table 2. Odds ratios that are larger than 1 are indicative of an increased probability of a correct response relative to that for a “happy” melody on the piano. Those that are smaller than 1 are indicative of a reduced probability. The 95% confidence intervals that do not include 1 are statistically significant at the 5% level, but individual results must be interpreted cautiously given the number of pair-wise comparisons that can be made. Strictly, participant responses here can be assessed only relative to the target emotion intended by the experimenters, since the criteria for a “correct” emotion judgement were not absolute but were defined by the experimenters. Although a global test of differences between the odds of an intended (correct) response by instrument (averaging over emotions) was statistically significant (p = .006), the probability of an intended response was similar for each instrument (range .74–.78). However, the odds of an intended response differed substantially (p < .0001) between emotions. The mean probability of an intended response was similar for “happy” and “sad” melodies and markedly reduced for “angry” and “fearful” melodies, though identification of both anger and fear were still well above what would be expected by chance. For each melody the target emotion was selected most frequently. There was a statistically significant interaction between instrument and emotion judgement (p < .0001): For “happy” melodies the odds of an intended response were lower for the violin than for the other instruments, while for “sad” melodies, the odds of an intended response were lower for the synthesizer than for the other instruments.

Bottom Line: Using a generalized linear mixed model we found a significant interaction between instrument and emotion judgement with a similar pattern in young and older adults (p < .0001 for each age group).The effect was not attributable to musical expertise.Our findings show that timbre (instrument identity) independently affects the perception of emotions in music after controlling for other acoustic, cognitive, and performance factors.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Dementia Research Centre, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK.

ABSTRACT
Salient sensory experiences often have a strong emotional tone, but the neuropsychological relations between perceptual characteristics of sensory objects and the affective information they convey remain poorly defined. Here we addressed the relationship between sound identity and emotional information using music. In two experiments, we investigated whether perception of emotions is influenced by altering the musical instrument on which the music is played, independently of other musical features. In the first experiment, 40 novel melodies each representing one of four emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, or anger) were each recorded on four different instruments (an electronic synthesizer, a piano, a violin, and a trumpet), controlling for melody, tempo, and loudness between instruments. Healthy participants (23 young adults aged 18-30 years, 24 older adults aged 58-75 years) were asked to select which emotion they thought each musical stimulus represented in a four-alternative forced-choice task. Using a generalized linear mixed model we found a significant interaction between instrument and emotion judgement with a similar pattern in young and older adults (p < .0001 for each age group). The effect was not attributable to musical expertise. In the second experiment using the same melodies and experimental design, the interaction between timbre and perceived emotion was replicated (p < .05) in another group of young adults for novel synthetic timbres designed to incorporate timbral cues to particular emotions. Our findings show that timbre (instrument identity) independently affects the perception of emotions in music after controlling for other acoustic, cognitive, and performance factors.

Show MeSH