The Effects of Continuous Subjective Music Experience Ratings on Physiological and Psychological Measures of Activation and Valence

A. Foerstel, Hauke Egermann, Stephen McAdams

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


1. Background Many studies use continuous rating devices to assess dynamic changes of experience during music listening. This creates an unnatural listening experience in which participants are required to constantly monitor both the music presented and their subjective responses concerning emotions, tension, or liking. However, to date, how these simultaneous ratings affect the dependent variables that are supposed to be measured remains unexplored. 2. Aims Therefore, we conducted an experimental study in which we compared two randomly assigned groups of participants: one continuously rating induced emotions, one not. From both groups, measures of psychophysiological activation and retrospective ratings were taken. We hypothesized that continuous ratings would lead to increased subjective and physiological activations during music listening due to participants' increased attentional focus. 3. Methods 43 participants listened to 13 music excerpts from the classical repertoire (each approx. 30 sec. long) and retrospectively rated the intensity of emotional responses on a list of 28 items. Half of the participants additionally continuously rated their felt emotion in a two-dimensional emotion space of valence and arousal using an iPod-Touch interface. We also continuously recorded skin conductance, heart and respiration rate, and activation of facial corrugator and zygomaticus muscles (associated with frowning and smiling, respectively). 4. Results Data analyses indicate that there were no differences in retrospective and physiological valence measures of induced emotions between participant groups. However, those that continuously rated their own emotions responded with significantly higher sympathetic nervous system activation indicated by higher skin conductance levels. This finding is furthermore corroborated by higher subjective arousal ratings in the retrospective questionnaire for the group with continuous ratings. Additionally, the participants in this group stated that they were less distracted by something other than the music during the task. 5. Conclusions These results indicate that the task of continuously rating music experience influences music experience on its own, at least in terms of behavioral and physiological measures of arousal. We assume that this effect might be mediated through an increased attentional focus. Researchers employing this form of response paradigm need to consider this bias in interpreting their findings.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationAbstract Book of the 13th International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition
Place of PublicationSeoul
PublisherInternational Conference of Music Perception and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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