“Beauty is how you feel inside”: Aesthetic judgements are related to emotional responses to contemporary music

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While it has extensively been argued that aesthetic categories such as beauty have a direct relationship to emotion, there has only been limited psychological research on the relationship between aesthetic judgements and emotional responses to art. Music is recognised to be an art form that elicits strong emotional responses in listeners and it is therefore pertinent to study empirically how aesthetic judgements relate to emotional responses to music listening. The aim of the presented study is to test for the impact of aesthetic judgement on various psychophysiological response measures of emotion that were assessed in parallel in two contemporary music concerts, each with a different audience and programme. In order to induce different levels of aesthetic judgements in participants, we assigned them randomly to one of two groups in a between-subjects design in both concerts: One group attended a talk on the music presented, illustrating its aesthetic value, while the other group attended an unrelated talk on a non-musical topic. During the concerts, we assessed, from 41 participants in Concert 1 (10 males; mean age 23 years) and 53 in Concert 2 (14 males; mean age 24 years), different emotional response components: a) retrospective rating of emotion; b) activation of the peripheral nervous system (skin conductance and heart rate); c) the activity of two facial muscles associated with emotional valence (only Concert 1). Participants listened to live performances of a selection of contemporary music pieces. After each piece, participants rated the music according to a list of commonly discussed aesthetic judgement criteria, all thought to contribute to the perceived aesthetic value of art. While preconcert talks did not significantly impact value judgement ratings, through factor analyses it was found that aesthetic judgements could be grouped into several underlying dimensions representing analytical, semantic, traditional aesthetic, and typicality values. All dimensions where then subsequently shown to be related to subjective and physiological responses to music. The findings reported in this study contribute to understanding the relationship between aesthetic judgement processes and emotional responses to music. The results give further evidence that cognitive-affective interactions have a significant role in processing music stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
Article number510029
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

2020 Egermann and Reuben

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