Tim Brunson DCH

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Relationships between musical structure and psychophysiological measures of emotion.

Psychophysiological studies with music have not examined what exactly in the music might be responsible for the observed physiological phenomena. The authors explored the relationships between 11 structural features of 16 musical excerpts and both self-reports of felt pleasantness and arousal and different physiological measures (respiration, skin conductance, heart rate). Overall, the relationships between musical features and experienced emotions corresponded well with those known between musical structure and perceived emotions. This suggests that the internal structure of the music played a primary role in the induction of the emotions in comparison to extramusical factors. Mode, harmonic complexity, and rhythmic articulation best differentiated between negative and positive valence, whereas tempo, accentuation, and rhythmic articulation best discriminated high arousal from low arousal. Tempo, accentuation, and rhythmic articulation were the features that most strongly correlated with physiological measures. Music that induced faster breathing and higher minute ventilation, skin conductance, and heart rate was fast, accentuated, and staccato. This finding corroborates the contention that rhythmic aspects are the major determinants of physiological responses to music.

Emotion. 2007 May;7(2):377-87. Gomez P, Danuser B. Institut Universtitaire Romand de Sante au Travail, Lausanne, Switzerland. patrick.gomez@hospvd.ch

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