Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik
IDEA Lecture with Tuomas Eerola
Two Tales of Music and Emotions: From the Confines of Controlled Lab Study to the Construction of Emotions in Context
This two-part talk presents a lab study about enjoyable aspects of sadness in music and then broadens the scope into a constructionist account of emotions. We tested whether the pleasure induced by sad, unfamiliar music is explained with either a consoling or a reward account. Two groups of participants differing in their trait empathy listened to sad music while serum prolactin, oxytocin, and stress marker concentrations were collected through blood samples. High empathy group reported an increase of positive mood after the music condition and higher ratings of being moved than the low empathy group. In the high empathy group, the prolactin and oxytocin levels were significantly lower after the music condition in comparison to silence. The findings illuminate how aesthetic responses to an unfamiliar and low arousal music may give rise to pleasurable experiences. The second tale acknowledges how our prevalent theories are not well-equipped to explain the salient and meaningful ways we experience emotions with music in specific situations and cultural connotations. The development of constructionist theories of emotions may capture such experiences better. The heavy contextual nature of emotions is a challenge that needs to be incorporated into the study design. Contextuality also invites the participant's diversity into the study design to broaden the scope of cultural connotations and situations that contribute to these experiences. These challenges are discussed and elements leading to progress are identified.
The lecture will be held in English.
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Tuomas Eerola is a Professor of Music Cognition at Durham University, UK. His disciplinary orientation is music psychology and he uses empirical experiments, theorising and computational modelling to explore how we engage and process music. He has published more than 170 papers and book chapters on topics including musical similarity, melodic expectations, perception of rhythm, timbre, and consonance. His current interest lies in communication and induction of emotions via music. Eerola’s research has been funded by the Academy of Finland, AHRC (UK), ESRC (UK), and EU Horizon 2020. He is in the editorial board or a consulting member of journals such as Psychology of Music, Psychomusicology, Musicae Scientiae and Music Perception. His latest book titled “Music and Science – Guide to Empirical Music Research” will be published by Routledge in 2023.
The IDEA Lectures (Interdisciplinary Debates on the Empirical Aesthetics of Music) aim at bringing together internationally well-known researchers who discuss questions that relate to the production and reception of music from various perspectives. Musicologists from all branches of their discipline take part as do musicians, psychologists, cognitive scientists, sociologists, philosophers and ethnologists.