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Aesthetic responses to music: A questionnaire study

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  • Eva Istok, Univ Jyvaskyla, University of Jyvaskyla, Dept Mus, Finnish Ctr Excellence Interdisciplinary Mus Res
  • ,
  • Elvira Brattico
  • Thomas Jacobsen, Leipzig University
  • ,
  • Kaisu Krohn, Univ Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Dept Psychol, Cognit Brain Res Unit, Denmark
  • Mira Mueller, Leipzig University
  • ,
  • Mari Tervaniemi, Univ Jyvaskyla, University of Jyvaskyla, Dept Mus, Finnish Ctr Excellence Interdisciplinary Mus Res

We explored the content and structure of the cognitive, knowledge-based concept underlying aesthetic responses to music. To this aim, we asked 290 Finnish students to verbally associate the aesthetic value of music and to write down a list of appropriate adjectives within a given time limit. No music was presented during the task. In addition, information about participants' musical background was collected. A variety of analysis techniques was used to determine the key results of our study. The adjective "beautiful" proved to be the core item of the concept under question. Interestingly, the adjective "touching" was often listed together with "beautiful". In addition, we found music-specific vocabulary as well as adjectives related to emotions and mood states indicating that affective processes are an essential part of aesthetic responses to music. Differences between music experts and laymen as well as between female and male participants were found for a number of adjectives. These findings suggest the existence of a common conceptual space underlying aesthetic responses to music, which partly can be modified by the level of musical expertise and gender.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Pages (from-to)183-206
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Research areas

  • aesthetics, emotions, concept, beauty, verbal association, EMOTIONAL RESPONSES, CIRCUMPLEX MODEL, EXPERIENCE, PREFERENCE, AROUSAL, BEAUTY

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