Musically Induced Emotions: Subjective Measures of Arousal and Valence

Barbara L. Wheeler, University of Louisville
Estate Sokhadze, University of Louisville Health Sciences Center
Joshua Baruth, University of Louisville Health Sciences Center
Gene Ann Behrens, Elizabethtown College
Carla F. Quinn, University of West Florida


This study was designed to investigate whether US participants would experience the same emotions when listening to specific pieces of music as were labeled by participants in a previous study done in the Netherlands. It examined whether musical excerpts would fall into quadrants of serene, happy, agitated, and sad created by an interaction of the dimensions of arousal (calm-excited) and valence (unpleasant-pleasant) and whether the mean scores would fall within quadrant positions similar to those in the previous study. Participants heard 12 musical excerpts and responded by turning dials depicting different degrees of arousal and valence. After one of the pieces of music was reallocated to a different category, they experienced 3 of the 4 emotions as did earlier participants. Implications for the study of emotion in music and its use in music therapy and music medicine are discussed. © 2011, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.