How Emotions are Affected by The Music?



The field of neuroscience and music is expanding at a rapid pace. Several benefits of changing and engaging the brain waves can be witnessed largely. Oftentimes, the experts perceive music as a perceptual illusion. On the other hand, both the order and structural aspects are imposed by the brain. It helps in giving an entirely brand-new meaning to the system. Most importantly, music possesses the ability to manifest various feelings and images which may not be directly linked with the memory. Interestingly, listening to music can help the human beings to become happy. Moreover, the people derive happiness out of the same by investing a large amount of money and time.  It is important to understand whether the aesthetic and familiarity preferences pertaining to music have any role in dissecting the listener’s involvement or not. Music is extremely important for everyone, especially when any emotional involvement is concerned. For instance, it can be witnessed in the real-life scenario as well, when any infant’s attention is easier to hold merely, by singing instead of speaking. At times, the caregivers also communicate with the infants in a music-like tone. They oftentimes, use rhythmic rates, a large and slow pitch range, high overall pitch, and the exaggerated pitch contours. The adults report that the music regulates their affective state and assists in expressing various emotions in an effective manner. Alternatively, music is specifically an effective stimulus so as to tone-down the varying emotional states. For example, a self-selected music which is depressing in nature is also quite effective at altering the mood to negative, from positive. Apart from all these things, the context and the listener’s age are quite relevant for anyone, in regards to the music. On the contrary, the older adults seldom report that they experience intense emotions in comparison to the younger ones, especially when listening to the jovial music. Both the cognitive and emotional processes are hardly dependent on one another. There are two distinct concepts implied by the emotional intelligence such as the emotional and rational aspects. They operate independently. Thus, this paper will elucidate how there is a proximate relation between the emotions and music, from the perspective of psychology.


Emotional responses and music

The emotional responses that the human beings have are very individual in nature. For instance, all the happy songs may not be perceived as the most uplifting ones. They do not even guarantee anyone that they will be continuously, in a jovial mood. On the other hand, oftentimes, people find conform in the melancholic music. Thus, abruptly, a song which is technically depressing may turn out to be more soothing and cathartic one in nature. According to the neuroscientists, music enters the human beings’ nervous system via the auditory brainstem. On the contrary, music often delves into the consciousness through the process of bottom-up phenomenon. Practically, the human heart desires to align with the music. Alternatively, the randomness in music is seldom linked with the surge in dopamine.  Interestingly, the predictability is a rut as a playlist which is mundane does not intrigue anyone or rather reduces the anticipation. Monotony is created when a particular sequence is known to the listeners (Perlovsky 539). Several mental and emotional disorders can be cured by hearing to different types of music. The effect of music is examined by the music psychologists to understand how the emotions of human beings turn up. Even the cognitive theory also studies the human perception on music. Moreover, it is also important to understand how the cognitive schemata gets activate by merely listening to various songs. Music is perceived to be a therapy across a variety of population. After all, it assists in inducing the emotions. Both the psychological and physical reactions are prominent in this situation.  In fact, the music performers and non-knowledgeable people react to the music, emotionally. An emotion always tends to direct towards a person or circumstance. Under the heading emotion, various types of emotional experiences and responses can be witnessed. In the musical context, any apparent biological function remains absent. Even the influences of the real-life scenarios are also not present in the same context. Most importantly, even if there is a presence of threatening or frightening aspects yet the sense of control is hardly lost. However, this happens when the music is turned off. A majority of the emotional responses are focused towards the arousal and appraisal components, in varying psychological researches. It is important to understand that the music often functions as a stimulus or catalyst, for the emotions.

Theory of emotion and few other relevant models

The theory of emotions is appropriate to decipher the relationship between the emotions and music. There are some components in music which create different expectations regarding the development of music that can take place in the future. For example, a particular rhythm or melodic line helps in recalling the past, largely. Thus, the listeners’ expectations and the other cognitive aspects are determined by the musical emotions. For instance, music arouses various expectations which can be immediately or directly satisfied. The affect arousal element elucidates how the music arouses various tendencies. Firstly, the emotions are experienced by the build-up and release of tensions. It is true in the case of both the listener and the music. As per the Meyer’s theory, any conscious insight can reduce the music’s effects. It also implies that the trained listener mainly reacts cognitively, by listening to the music. In certain instances, the cognitive theories pertaining to the emotions can also be brought into the forefront. Emotions are caused mostly by the future event-related expectations and their interruptions. The personal involvement determines the level of interruption. On the other hand, when the arousal is caused some or the other explanation is sought after. Contradictorily, emotions are vividly related to the information processing. Thus, the arousal experience is mostly the result of a misalignment between the new information’s integration and existing knowledge structure. As a result, a link can be found between the Meyer’s proclamation and the mismatch aspect. The change in the expected musical patterns leads to the experiences of arousal. On the contrary, the negative emotions are mostly the result of mismatch between the existent musical schemata and the musical information. Thus, just its opposite manifests in the form of positive emotions (Schubert 18). The factors, for example, the familiarity, complexity, and music’s novelty are taken into account when a person listens to the music. As a result, the familiarity determines whether the music is uncomfortable or pleasurable for a listener. For example, when music is quite new for a listener, its hedonic value remains low. It progresses with the degree of familiarity. Thus, the hedonic value once more decreases with the familiarity. The reversed U-shape curve can depict this relation better. Alternatively, the experience of emotion and arousal are quite important. In fact, the more arousal is caused by the complexity of music. However, the listeners’ tendency to seek activation is limited in nature.  The preferred arousal constant is maintained with the musical preference. In fact, the complexity of the music manifests in the form of arousal.

Furthermore, Berlyne’s theory portrays how the music can produce varying emotions at different times, in those same people. In many of the experiments, it was observed that the consumption of arousal drugs leads to the preference of complex music. Both the mode and tempo showcase the strongest impact on various listeners. For instance, when the piano music is played in a fast tempo, it is described to be more cheerful, by the respondents. On the contrary, the sensitive and dreamful aspects were prominent when the piano music played was slow in tempo. Oftentimes, the emotional responses and reactions are induced by the music, especially in the specific moments. In many of the music therapy sessions, it has been witnessed that the patients are likely to prefer only the classical or heavy metal music. It is because of the emotional attachment to the same, which helps in healing.

Cognitive psychological experiments on music and their results

In the field of cognitive psychology, both the music cognition and perception are prominent as they help to understand the underlying mental mechanisms pertaining to the appreciation of music. Interestingly, the cognitive science has merged from a number of fields such as the neurophysiology, linguistics, computer science, and philosophy. The human beings’ mental capacities are highlighted in the cognitive science. In order to understand the musical forms’ cognitive structure, many of the ideas pertaining to the linguistics have been borrowed. For example, the cognitive psychology would help to understand the exercise and acquisition of various musical skills so as to listen and perform. Even the musical performances are greatly related to the emotions of a person. Multiple perception levels help in working with varying complex process structures and novelty. The memory structure is equally important as the musical structures tend to extend with time. Alternatively, the accumulated memory pertains to the musical piece formation.

Sociocultural approach to music psychology and its implications on the human emotions

From the socio-cultural perspective of psychology, the emotional episode that has been constructed from the cultural ideas and social customs can be regarded as the prototype for the researches. On the other hand, the emotional prototype mostly comprises of the events which are having the core-affective quality. As per the aspects mentioned-above, the basic emotions are often created by the music. The brain-imaging studies reveal that the real emotions are the products of music. An extra-musical association is often created by the same. Alternatively, the listeners can also project varying interpretations on a musical piece. An object containing emotions are aroused by the music. For example, love is an object that often gets triggered. On the other hand, the complex emotion such as nostalgia is a matter of communication via the musical piece. Contradictorily, the theories related to the communication decipher that only the simple and basic emotions are conveyed in music with little or no objects. Oftentimes, it can be observed that the lyrics do not play any role in the expression of emotions rather the tone and tempo determine the same. Some of the recognized emotions triggered are the frightening, sadness, and happiness. The unconscious appraisals should be responded to the cues in relation to music as the same leads to the expression of basic emotions. However, the process’ rapidness deciphers how the working memory cannot be accessed easily and thus, only a handful of computational power is valid in this case. The mimetic cues are visible vividly. For instance, happiness emotion corresponds to the loud, medium tempo, major scale, wide pitch range, and consonant aspects. Alternatively, one’s anxious emotions are evident when he or she listens to the moderate volume, rapid tempo, and minor scaled and low-pitched music. Thus, it can be understood how the appraisal of events take place when the cognitive theories are applied to the situations. However, the most controversial part is the emotions’ nature. Emotions are potent enough to gunpowder and glue the human social relations.

Few important aspects of sociocultural perspective

According to the sociocultural elements of music, the natural selection process has shaped the evolution pertaining to the species. The musical behaviors can be considered as the manifestations of possible selection pressures. In the social group context, music can provide an advantage for the reproductive purpose. Arguably, some of the criticisms are also evident in this case. For instance, there are two main elements which have been negated by the previous psychologists, of the music evolutionary psychology (Eerola and Vuoskoski 309). Firstly, the music is hardly a product of memetic transmission or the cultural evolution. Secondly, several innate capabilities which the human beings apply may not be related with the music perception rather their connection can be witnessed in regards to the conceptual representation, auditory perception, emotion, timing, and language.

Biological relevancy in the cognitive music psychological perspective

The positive effects of music on the emotions help in bettering the cognitive performances of an individual. On the other hand, the biological aspects such as the brain areas pertaining to the expression of various emotions get activated by music. The pleasure experienced during music-listening is because of dopamine transmission through the hippocampus and amygdala. Cognitively, the loud as well as fast music contributes in delayed comprehension-reading. Thus, here the music is emotionally quite agitating. For example, one cannot simultaneously, ride a rollercoaster and read a book. Pop music is not a good influencer for the teenagers as they tend to indulge in topics such as the alcohol, drugs, sex, and violence. It is music which helps in fortifying the lyrics. Hence, the destructive and negative lyrics are venomous for the human minds. As a result, a vivid range of self-destructive behaviors and degradation of women have occurred since the emergence of many pop songs. The moods are also affected by the gothic and somber genres, in a negative manner. On one hand, some of the songs may catalyze the jovial nature of various teenagers while others can prove to be detrimental for their emotional well-being. In general, music tends to delay or reduce the fatigue. The muscular endurance is increased by the music. Hence, the music psychology is proximately linked with the evolutionary approaches and the cross-cultural aspects, simultaneously.

Music is nothing but the product of mind. Until and unless the vibrational elements of amplitude form, frequency, and duration are neurologically transformed, the same cannot be proclaimed to be music. The neurological transmissions are interpreted in the form of timbre, pitch, time, loudness, and others. The musical inputs stimulate the neural structures, like all other sensory inputs. Unfortunately, the human beings are more of the imitators. In this world, the new ways are invented by the people. As per the behavioral psychology, each and every one is in need of listening to the music. The music structure is the core of emotions and feelings, deciphered by a person. Many psychologists refer to the music as a form of behavior in the human beings. It is powerful and unique in its influences.

Expectancy is quite an important aspect in understanding the variety of behaviors, for example, speech understanding, perception, skilled performances, and production. Sometimes, music theory may combine other broader topics as well. The emotions of the listener are unveiled when the musical patterns are brought into the open. The listeners remember those chords and tones which are often expected in a particular context. On the other hand, stylistically, the tones that are unexpected are not remembered adequately. However, the change to any expected element from its counterpart is noteworthy.

Some important social and cultural components of the music psychology

The sub-cultural and social boundaries are defined by the music. A large number of aggressive behaviors are increased by the violent music. It is more influenced by the peer groups than that of the parents. The emotions are likely to become disruptive due to the interference of the peer groups, in a large amount. In this way, the children spend less time with their parents thereby leading to less parental supervision (Swaminathan and Schellenberg 192). If in those formative years, the children tend to listen to the music which is full of pathos, they can become violent in the subsequent years. As a result, the emotional manifestation may not be pleasant at all. The emotions of teenagers are swayed the most by music-listening. They prefer hard rocks, heavy metals, and hardcore rap. Most importantly, it has been discussed earlier how the tempo affects the youngsters, largely. For example, the children have been reported to behave well after listening to the classical music. On the other hand, quite background music helps in unwanted thought blockage and surging the concentration. It may not be completely applicable for each and every one. The anxiety is decreased and tranquility is promoted when the soothing and pleasing music is played.

The musical preferences are largely biased towards the culturally, similar musical traditions that often begin right at the infancy stage. On the other hand, the adults’ classification related to the emotion of any musical piece mostly, depends on the structural features and cultural specifications. Thus, in case of the memory abilities, various individuals like to listen to the familiar music, which are culturally known to them. Alternatively, they do not opt for the unfamiliar music, culturally. Hence, emotions are triggered by the music most, when the people can listen to their favorite or culturally preferred pieces.

Behavioral perspective on the music psychology

It is noticeable that the emotions are often evoked by nothing but the stimuli. On the contrary, those stimuli are appraised when the processing occur on the multiple levels. A psychological link between the emotional states and musical activity is not at all new. The aesthetic evaluations cannot be solely based on the gut feelings (Koelsch 176). Arguably, the human beings are hardly predisposed genetically, to various sounds or value images such as the safe environments, healthy mates, and a consistent food source. In other scenarios, the artistic phenomena may often acquire the virtue of being special, by value. It is evident in relation to the experiences, conventions, social patterns, and others. Alternatively, the neuroscientific and behavioral evidences showcase all the emotional systems are mostly, implied by the appraisal of value and various preferences. Music is also an emotional signal which can be regarded to be multimodal in nature. When singing or speaking emotionally, all the emotional facial gestures and expressions are combined along with various auditory emotional signals. It helps in creating a more multimodal affective experience which is quite powerful, characteristically. In the music-related researches, psychological often emphasize on the communication of different emotions. For instance, not only the listeners but also the singers themselves use varying body and facial movements to supplement or reinforce a large number of emotional messages. Contradictorily, the visual cues linked with the movements of body can also nurture an emotional connection between the audience members and the musicians. Thus, even when the sounded music is absent, the body movements provide different clues in relation to the expressivity of emotions. Emotional information may be sourced from the facial expressions of the listeners and viewers. The vocal production and the emotional messages conveyed via the singers are often aligned with one another. Alternatively, the facial expressions are potent enough to interpret the vocal emotional signals successfully. The emotions of humans are not only affected during the simple settings of listening to music but also the impact is visible during various activities such as the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Many times, the same rhythmic patterns help both the men and women to concentrate on their works, which are actually monotonous in nature. For example, during shopping, soft and loopy music is played on the background for affecting the moods of all the buyers. However, even in this scenario, the technicalities such as the tempo and tone of music are relevant.

Gender distinction on the music preference and portrayal of emotions

The impact of music on women is comparatively more than the men. They mostly listen to songs for various emotional reasons. Alternatively, the men listen to different music when they need some cognitive boosts. According to the cultural theory, the cultures are more of the adaptive systems. Thus, the people adapt to the norms and rituals of a culture which they have encountered from the childhood (Vuoskoski and Eerola 268). It is also related to the aspects of familiarity. Importantly, it is crucial to understand how the familiarity is associated with the several layers of memory. Therefore, the music also helps in decoding the memory by boosting its layers. Lastly, it can make anyone quite emotional in nature. Thus, a proximate relation is visible between the sociocultural themes and the music. On the other hand, the tonal-harmonic music’s experience can be better understood by examining the rhythm, meter, key, harmony, and scale. Music theory is not known to the listeners, in psychological experiments. The psychology seeks to understand the general principles that lie under the complex behavioral patterns. Alternatively, the differences between many individuals can exist. However, the same is treated as the systematic method.

Significant models and theories

One of the significant models which can help in dissecting the listener’s cognitive response towards music is the realization-implication framework. Narmour’s model is considered to be one of the initial experiments of the cognitive psychology. The shorter stimulus sequences help in conducting various experiments. Even in the music psychology, the top-down process can be adopted for explicitly understanding the incoming of perceptual information. It is later related to the previous experiences of an individual. The proposed aspects of model such as the melodic expectancies are influenced by nothing but the melodic expectancies (Juslin and Sloboda 591). Even the principles largely depend on the immediate musical context, perceptually. The melody-related cognition can often be described as the successive points of implications, closure, and realization. From the above-discussion, it can be dissected that the emotional responses are the results of changing expectancies pertaining to the listener.

The Lev’s theory on sociocultural aspects decipher that the caregivers, parents, peers, and extended families remain responsible to develop various higher order functions. Thus, learning is associated with varying people’s interaction. It also emphasizes on the fact that the attitudes and cultural beliefs affect how the learning and instruction take place. In the above-sections, it is evident how the familiarity factor in music always triggers the emotional reactions of the respondents in varying experiments.

Music psychology is largely intertwined with the Piaget’s cognitive model. For instance, it also focuses on the adaptation process, schemas, and cognitive development stages. In case of the music psychology, how the excessive adaptation or zero-surprise element can nullify the emotional arousal process in the subjects when music is played to them has been vividly elucidated.

Last but not the least; the Skinner’s behavioral theory can showcase the language’s proximity with the music psychology. He focused on the reinforcement aspect in order to change the subjects’ behaviors. The reinforcement can be either positive or negative in nature. On the contrary, like language, music is also perceived to be the habit which can definitely be acquired by conditioning. The musical stimuli can help in gaining control over the human emotions and behaviors.


In this report, it can be observed that the music psychology genre has blended the social, cultural, behavioral, and cognitive approaches in a healthy manner. Some of the theories that have been applied in this paper are the Lev’s theory, Piaget’s cognitive framework, and the behavioral theory portrayed by Skinner. Music extracts emotions out of the men and women differently. For instance, a piece of music can make a woman more emotional than a man. It is because the men perceive the same in a more cognitive manner. Therefore, right from the biological relevancy to the varying genres of psychology must be compiled in the experimentation of the music psychology, for the best results. It can also be inferred that both the listener and singer are equally affected emotionally, where music is concerned. Apart from these, the effect of music is different for the varying age groups. The working memory is not much disrupted by the music rather it penetrates through the various layers of a person’s memory.

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  1. Eerola, Tuomas, and Jonna K. Vuoskoski, “A review of music and emotion studies: approaches, emotion models, and stimuli.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol.30, no.3, 2013, pp. 307-340.
  2. Juslin, Patrik N., and John A. Sloboda. “Music and emotion.” The Psychology of Music, vol. 1, no.1, 2013. 583-645.
  3. Koelsch, Stefan, “Brain correlates of music-evoked emotions.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol.15, no.3, 2014, pp.170-181.
  4. Perlovsky, Leonid, “Origin of music and embodied cognition.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 6, no.1, 2015, pp.538-540.
  5. Schubert, Emery, “Loved music can make a listener feel negative emotions.” Musicae Scientiae, vol.17, no.1, 2013, pp.11-26.
  6. Swaminathan, Swathi, and E. Glenn Schellenberg, “Current emotion research in music psychology.” Emotion Review, vol.7, no.2, 2015, pp.189-197.
  7. Vuoskoski, Jonna K., and Tuomas Eerola, “Extramusical information contributes to emotions induced by music.” Psychology of Music, vol.43, no.2, 2015, pp. 262-274.
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