An Experimental Investigation on Empathy as an Emotion-Induction Mechanism in Music Listening

D. Ditter, L. Schmidt, N. Tessmer, H. Egermann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Previous findings indicate that empathy influences emotional responses while listening to music. These findings are based on experiments which used audiovisual stimuli of musical performances. It remains unclear if this influence would continue, if a person is only exposed to the audio content. Therefore this web-based experiment investigated the influence of induced empathy on emotions by listening to pure audio content. All 83 participants (45 female, 51 male, age M = 31 years) listened to four different contemporary music excerpts (instrumental-happy content / instrumental-sad content / vocal-happy content / vocal-sad content) with one out of two different and randomly assigned in- structions. Subjects were either instructed to empathize with the emotional expression in the music or to evaluate audio quality (low empathy control condition). Both groups rated felt intensity of 5 basic emotions (5 point-scale) after listening to each of the four stimuli. Results show that the two treatment groups differed significantly in the rating of their felt emotions: Confirming our hypothe- sis, different pieces with different emotional expressions were rated differently on different emotions comparing empathy and control groups. In that, emotions expressed in the songs were rated higher by the empathy group than emotions not expressed. Hence, induced empathy modulated emotional responses to the stimuli presented. To our knowledge this study offers the first results on this topic while using audio-only stimuli.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationAbstract Book of the 3rd International Conference on Music Emotion
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Emotion,Empathy,Music,Web-experiment

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