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Affective priming with musical chords is influenced by pitch numerosity

Lahdelma, I. and Armitage, J. and Eerola, T. (2022) 'Affective priming with musical chords is influenced by pitch numerosity.', Musicae scientiae., 26 (1). pp. 208-217.


Previous studies using an affective priming paradigm have shown that valenced chords (e.g., consonant–positive; dissonant–negative) facilitate the evaluation of similarly valenced target words. The role of numerosity (the total number of pitches in a chord) and timbre has not yet been systematically investigated in previous priming studies using consonant/dissonant chords. An experiment was conducted in which 40 participants evaluated positive and negative target words with consonant/dissonant chords used as affective primes. Eight distinct chords (four consonant and four dissonant) were used as primes; the consonant and dissonant chords were equally divided to comprise either two (i.e., interval) or four (i.e., tetrad) pitches. Each chord was played with two distinct timbres (piano and harmonium), resulting in a total of 16 chords. Results showed that congruent chord–word pairings resulted in faster reaction times, and this finding was in line with previous research using consonant/dissonant chords as primes. However, this effect was present only with tetrad chords, suggesting that numerosity influences affective priming done with chords. There were no significant effects of timbre or the musical sophistication of the participants. Arguments are made as to why higher pitch numerosity in chords (resulting in acoustic complexity) might influence the evaluation of valenced target words.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:15 February 2020
Date deposited:20 April 2020
Date of first online publication:19 March 2020
Date first made open access:20 April 2020

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