Perceptual representations mediate effects of stimulus properties on liking for music

Ana Clemente*, Thomas M. Kaplan, Marcus T. Pearce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Perceptual pleasure and its concomitant hedonic value play an essential role in everyday life, motivating behavior and thus influencing how individuals choose to spend their time and resources. However, how pleasure arises from perception of sensory information remains relatively poorly understood. In particular, research has neglected the question of how perceptual representations mediate the relationships between stimulus properties and liking (e.g., stimulus symmetry can only affect liking if it is perceived). The present research addresses this gap for the first time, analyzing perceptual and liking ratings of 96 nonmusicians (power of 0.99) and finding that perceptual representations mediate effects of feature-based and information-based stimulus properties on liking for a novel set of melodies varying in balance, contour, symmetry, or complexity. Moreover, variability due to individual differences and stimuli accounts for most of the variance in liking. These results have broad implications for psychological research on sensory valuation, advocating a more explicit account of random variability and the mediating role of perceptual representations of stimulus properties.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Pages (from-to)169-180
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • appreciation
  • liking
  • music
  • perception
  • structural equation modeling


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