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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.

Show MeSH
Mean scores (/10) for each intended emotion for synthesized timbres 1–4, in young adult participants. H, happiness; S, sadness; A, anger; F, fear.
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Figure 3: Mean scores (/10) for each intended emotion for synthesized timbres 1–4, in young adult participants. H, happiness; S, sadness; A, anger; F, fear.

Mentions: The mean number of “correct” responses (score / 10) for each target emotion are displayed in Figure 3. The odds ratios for an intended response for each combination of synthesized timbre and emotion (adjusted for order of instrument presentation), relative to the odds of an intended response for “happy” melodies played on Timbre 1 (as explained in the Method section) are shown in Table 4. Results were similar to Experiment 1: Averaged over all emotion categories, the odds of a correct response were similar for each timbre, and a global test of differences was not statistically significant (p = .7). However, the odds of an intended response differed markedly and were statistically significantly (p < .0001) between emotions. There was a statistically significant interaction (p < .05) between timbre and emotion judgement: Anger was better identified using Timbres 2 and 4 than using Timbres 1 and 3, while, conversely, sadness was better identified using Timbres 1 and 3 than using Timbres 2 and 4.


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 synthesized timbres 1–4, in young 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 3: Mean scores (/10) for each intended emotion for synthesized timbres 1–4, in young adult participants. H, happiness; S, sadness; A, anger; F, fear.
Mentions: The mean number of “correct” responses (score / 10) for each target emotion are displayed in Figure 3. The odds ratios for an intended response for each combination of synthesized timbre and emotion (adjusted for order of instrument presentation), relative to the odds of an intended response for “happy” melodies played on Timbre 1 (as explained in the Method section) are shown in Table 4. Results were similar to Experiment 1: Averaged over all emotion categories, the odds of a correct response were similar for each timbre, and a global test of differences was not statistically significant (p = .7). However, the odds of an intended response differed markedly and were statistically significantly (p < .0001) between emotions. There was a statistically significant interaction (p < .05) between timbre and emotion judgement: Anger was better identified using Timbres 2 and 4 than using Timbres 1 and 3, while, conversely, sadness was better identified using Timbres 1 and 3 than using Timbres 2 and 4.

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