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A new study from researchers including AICE members, Xia Fang and Disa Sauter, uncovered 13 distinct types of experiences that people across two different cultures report in listening to music of different kinds.

AICE researchers Xia Fang and Disa Sauter together with Alan Cowen and Dacher Keltner have surveyed more than 2,500 people in the United States and China about their emotional responses to these and thousands of other songs from genres including rock, folk, jazz, classical, marching band, experimental and heavy metal.

Reseachers have translated the data into an interactive audio map where visitors can move their cursors to listen to any of thousands of music snippets to find out, among other things, if their emotional reactions match how people from different cultures respond to the music.

The upshot? The subjective experience of music across cultures can be mapped within at least 13 overarching feelings: Amusement, joy, eroticism, beauty, relaxation, sadness, dreaminess, triumph, anxiety, scariness, annoyance, defiance, and feeling pumped up.

While both U.S. and Chinese study participants identified similar emotions — such as feeling fear when hearing the “Jaws” movie score — they differed on whether those emotions made them feel good or bad. In addition, their opinions varied on the level of “arousal,” which refers in the study to the degree of calmness or stimulation evoked by a piece of music.

Potential applications for these research findings range from informing psychological and psychiatric therapies designed to evoke certain feelings to helping music streaming services like Spotify adjust their algorithms to satisfy their customers’ audio cravings or set the mood.

 

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