A distinction must be made between the emotional content of a piece of music and the emotions the music elicits in listeners. There is little data suggesting the judged emotion of a piece of music elicits comparable and distinct emotional states in listeners. The observations reported here assess, through the use of a reaction time task in an affective priming paradigm, changes in physiological state induced by classical music. Using a repeated-measures, participants signalled, in the absence and presence of music, the valence of positive and negative words. When present, classical pieces of music varied in mode (major or minor) and tempo (fast or slow). A speed/accuracy trade off was observed with the introduction of music, although the effect was small. “Fast-major” music was found to facilitate responding to positive and negative words; “slow-minor” music was found to inhibit responding to positive and negative words; and slow-major and fast-minor music had no significant effect on reaction times. These data illustrate that the affective priming paradigm facilitates discrimination between physiological states elicited by different types of music; discriminations not readily observable in earlier work (e.g.: Krumhansl, 1997). They illustrate also, that different types of music produce discrete physiological changes in listeners.
van der Zwan, R, Daini, R, Smith, S, Brooks, A, Reid, R & Quinn, C 2005, 'Physiological change induced through mode and tempo variations in classical music: a reaction time study', in M Katsikitis (ed.), Proceedings of 40th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society, Melbourne, Vic., 28 September - 2 October, Australian Psychological Society, Melbourne, Vic.
The Abstracts of the 40th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society published in Australian Journal of Psychology 2008, vol. 57, supplement 1
Abstract available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00049530600940010