Effects of voice on emotional arousal

(From the Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA; Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT, USA).

Effects of voice on emotional arousal – Loui P, Bachorik JP, Li HC, Schlaug G

In December 2011, as a slight detour from some graduate school meetings, I traveled to Vienna to attend the 2nd World Congress of Clinical Neuromusicology. It was here that I met Dr. Gottfried Schlaug and witnessed his intriguing presentation on Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT). This groundbreaking work has since proved to be a useful form of therapy in a variety of pragmatic ways across the general public. 

He comes to us now with results from a study investigating the effects of the human voice and lyricism have on emotional valence and arousal, and though the results may prove less than shocking, the implications for the continued study of emotion and music should be:

Music is a powerful medium capable of eliciting a broad range of emotions. Although the relationship between language and music is well documented, relatively little is known about the effects of lyrics and the voice on the emotional processing of music and on listeners’ preferences. In the present study, we investigated the effects of vocals in music on participants’ perceived valence and arousal in songs. Participants (N = 50) made valence and arousal ratings for familiar songs that were presented with and without the voice. We observed robust effects of vocal content on perceived arousal. Furthermore, we found that the effect of the voice on enhancing arousal ratings is independent of familiarity of the song and differs across genders and age: females were more influenced by vocals than males; furthermore these gender effects were enhanced among older adults. Results highlight the effects of gender and aging in emotion perception and are discussed in terms of the social roles of music.

For my Italian friends: 

La musica è un mezzo potentissimo capace di sollecitare un’ampia varietà di emozioni. Sebbene la relazione tra il linguaggio e la musica sia ben documentata, si sa relativamente poco circa gli effetti delle parole e della voce sull’elaborazione delle emozioni musicali e delle preferenze dell’ascoltatore. In questo studio, gli Autori indagano l’effetto della voce cantata sulla percezione della valenza emotiva e dell’arousal sugli ascoltatori. 50 partecipanti sono stati invitati a esprimere un giudizio sulla valenza emotiva delle canzoni familiari che venivano loro presentate, con o senza voce. Gli Autori hanno osservato un potente effetto del contenuto delle parole sull’arousal percepito. Inoltre, gli Autori hanno rilevato che l’effetto delle parole nell’aumentare i punteggi di arousal era indipendente dalla familiarità del pezzo ed era differente tra individui di sesso ed età diversi. Le donne erano più influenzate dalle parole rispetto agli uomini, e questi effetti dipendenti dal genere aumentavano con l’aumentare dell’età dei soggetti. I risultati sottolineano l’importanza del genere e dell’età nella percezione delle emozioni nella musica e vengono discussi in termini di ruolo sociale della musica.

For further inquiry into the study, please visit Frontiers.

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