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Dynamic Rating of Emotions Elicited by Music

Faculty Supervisor:
Dwight Krehbiel
Year of Project Completion:
Brooke Fischer


In this study college students’ feelings about ten music excerpts were compared to their thoughts of what the excerpts were intended to express. Each participant recorded his/her own response with a computer mouse, moving a point within an emotion circumplex (Barrett & Russell, 1999) to provide ratings each second along two dimensions, pleasantness and activation. Participants were 8 college students, ages 18 to 23, with an average of 4.25 years of music lessons or school music. The students changed their ratings rather infrequently. Correlations between ratings on the two dimensions varied across excerpts from strongly negative to strongly positive. Correlations between the students’ feelings and their thoughts on the intent of the music were generally positive, though there were notable exceptions. For example, students thought A. Piazzolla’s “Tanguedia III" was intended to decrease in pleasantness, but their reported feelings showed slight increases. Students indicated that the intent of J.S. Bach’s “Sarabande, Suite #6 D Major” was neutral in pleasantness, but their feelings were high on the pleasantness scale. The results suggest that these dimensions of emotional response to music are relatively independent and reported music-elicited feelings are similar but not identical to the judged intent of the performer and composer.

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.