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Individual differences in music reward sensitivity influence the perception of emotions represented by music

Fuentes-Sánchez, N. and Pastor, M. C. and Eerola, T. and Pastor, R. (2021) 'Individual differences in music reward sensitivity influence the perception of emotions represented by music.', Musicae Scientiae .


Although music is one of the most important sources of pleasure for many people, there are considerable individual differences in music reward sensitivity. Behavioral and neurobiological characterizations of music reward variability have been topics of increasing scientific interest over the last two decades. However, it is not clear how differences in music reward sensitivity might influence the perception of emotions represented by music and, specifically, how music reward sensitivity could influence subjective music evaluation when the affective valence of music is considered. In the present study, we investigated the relationship between music reward sensitivity and the perception of emotions in music, taking into account the emotional category of stimuli (pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant music clips). Music reward and emotion perception were also explored as a function of gender, musicianship, and music discrimination skills. We used the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire and the previously validated Film Music Stimulus Set (FMSS); participants rated FMSS excerpts for affective dimensions (valence, energy, and tension arousal) and discrete emotions (happiness, anger, fear, tenderness, and sadness). Our results showed that music reward was the main factor influencing FMSS evaluation, particularly for excerpts associated with positive affect. Gender had an important influence on evaluations linked to the negative pole of emotions, and music discrimination skills seemed to be associated with cognitive aspects of music analysis, rather than with the emotional architecture of pleasant music excerpts. Our findings highlight the need to consider music reward sensitivity and gender in studies of music and emotion, and open the possibility of using the FMSS in studies exploring the neurobiological and psychosocial bases of music emotion.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This contribution has been accepted for publication in Musicae Scientiae.
Date accepted:17 October 2021
Date deposited:11 May 2022
Date of first online publication:15 December 2021
Date first made open access:11 May 2022

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