Empirical Validation of Music Excerpts for
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Empirical Validation of Music Excerpts for Investigations of Emotion and Emotion Elicitation. Chad L. Stephens, Michael M. Knepp, & Bruce H. Friedman. Introduction.

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Chad L. Stephens,Michael M. Knepp, & Bruce H. Friedman


  • Procedure: Subjects came to the Mind-Body Laboratory and were presented with 37 excerpts of classical music/orchestral scores/white noise/silence.

  • The music excerpts/sounds (range = 70 to 240 seconds, average length = 165 seconds) were presented on a desktop computer through headphones (loudness = 50-90 dB) using a PowerPoint presentation such that the procedure was self-paced.

  • Dependent measures: Following the presentation of each musical piece/sound the subject rated on a 7-point Likert scale, from not at all (1) to very accurately (7) how much they felt each discrete emotion (amusement, fear, anger, sadness, surprise, contentment, neutral, and indifferent) as well as dimensional emotion categories during the presentation.

  • The excerpts were also rated on intensity and enjoyment using a 7-point Likert-scale ranging from not at all (1) to very high (7) and familiarity with musical piece (yes or no).

  • Music is an interesting and oft-explored method of emotion elicitation in psychophysiological studies of affect (e.g. Etzel et al, 2006; Krumhansl et al, 1997; Ng & Eich, 2007; Nyklicek et al., 1997)

  • Music induction may increase the realism of an emotional experience supplementary to, or independent of, other elicitation approaches (Ng & Eich, 2007).

  • Although music is an accepted form of emotion elicitation, film is the predominant media used in emotion research (for review see Rottenberg et al, 2007).

  • Preference for film induction stems from the intrinsic nature of film to create a dynamic, artificial version of reality (Gross & Levenson, 1995).

  • Films are advantageous due to the availability of standardized film sets covering a broad range of emotions (Gross & Levenson, 1995; Philippot 1993; Rottenberg et al, 2007). However, no such standard exists for music induction.

  • Although a standardized set of film excerpts covering a wide-range of emotions has been created, no such standard exists for music induction.

  • The purpose of the current study was to empirically validate a set of music excerpts such that there are at least two musical pieces which reliably induce each of the six discrete emotions, a neutral state, and a washout effect.

Figure 3. Group centroids of emotion condition using dimensional ASR variables. The horizontal axis (discriminant function 2) is interpreted as valence and the vertical axis (discriminant function 1) as arousal.


Figure 4. An empirically validated set of music excerpts for the discrete emotions of amusement, anger, contentment, fear, sadness, surprise, neutral, and washout.


Figure 1. The scores on all of the self-report variables differed significantly between the discrete emotion categories: Hotelling’s F (df = 7,55) ranging from 11.08 for indifferent to 52.3 for amusement (all Ps <.001).

  • Each emotion category (as represented by two music excerpts) were distinct from all other emotion categories based on discrete and dimensional self-report items (Figs. 1 & 2)

  • Standardizing the self-reported dimensional scores of valence and arousal allowed for mapping the discrete emotion conditions into previously hypothesized state-space (Figure 3) (cf. Berntson et al., 1991; Nyklicek et al., 1997).

  • Ultimately, a set of empirically validated music excerpts equivalent to the extant film set was created (Figure 4)

  • These results are preliminary to a larger project investigating autonomic specificity of emotions elicited using both music and film excerpts.


  • Music Selection: All music clips were orchestral string or piano compositions including film scores

  • Several excerpts had previously been used to elicit happiness, sadness, serenity, agitation, anger, fear, or a relatively neutral state

  • 171 Virginia Tech undergraduates completed the screening phase of this study.

  • 72 undergraduates met the inclusion criteria of being non-smokers, non-depressed, BDI-II < 19 (Beck et al., 1996) and non-alexthymic, TAS-20 < 51 (Taylor et al, 1997).

Figure 2. The scores on all of the self-report variables differed significantly between the dimensional emotion categories: Hotelling’s F (df = 7,55) ranging from 21.32 for bad to 59.82 for excited (all Ps <.001).

Correspondence to: [email protected]

Presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, Washington, DC, May 2007