Individual emotional reactions towards music: Evolutionary-based universals?
Grewe, O., Nagel, F., Altenmuller, E. & Kopiez, R. (2009). Individual emotional reactions towards music: Evolutionary-based universals? Musicae Scientiae, Special issue 2009-2010, 261-287.
Music can elicit strong feelings and physiological arousal in listeners. However, it is still under debate as to whether these reactions are based on universal reaction patterns or are acquired during a process of individual acculturation. Here we present evidence for the latter hypothesis: Subjective ratings on the axes of valence and arousal as well as physiological measurements of skin conductance response of 38 participants were assessed. Data were recorded continuously over time while participants listened to seven different musical pieces as well as five to ten pieces which they selected individually. Individual reactions showed extreme heterogeneity and revealed no systematic reaction patterns for all participants. In an exploratory approach, reactions of female and male participants were compared in response to singing voices of different registers (basso, tenor, alto, and soprano). The comparison of genders showed no significant differences, either in subjective ratings or in physiological reactions. The data presented here suggests that individual differences in the subjectively felt reactions to music dominate possible universal patterns. We argue that the high diversity in individual affective responses to music suggests a high adaptability of the underlying reaction patterns. This response mechanism might be evolutionarily beneficial due to its potential for social differentiation. ...