American University
thesesdissertations_3109_OBJ.pdf (2.03 MB)

Music and emotion: The effects of lyrics and familiarity on emotional responses to music

Download (2.03 MB)
posted on 2023-09-06, 03:09 authored by Syed Omar Ali

This study examined the effects of music with and without lyrics on a range of emotional responses. The first part of this study (Experiments 1--4) looked at whether there were any differences between affective responses to instrumental music and those to the same music with lyrics, across the emotional domains specified in each of the four quadrants (happy, sad, calm, and angry) of the circumplex theory of emotion (e.g., Larsen & Diener, 1992). Additionally, this study looked at which component had a greater influence on affective responses when the melodies and lyrics of these musical excerpts were mismatched with respect to emotion. Also of interest was whether or not such affective responses transferred to non-musical stimuli, such as pictures of commonly used words, which were presented with the music. The results showed that (1) lyrics detracted from emotional responses to happy and calm music (positive emotions), but enhanced emotional responses to sad and angry music (negative emotions); (2) the melody of music was more dominant than its lyrics in eliciting emotional responses; (3) these effects, though somewhat dampened, remained the same through transference to non-musical stimuli; (4) women rated the emotion elicited by the music without lyrics as more intense than that elicited by the same music with lyrics, whereas there was no difference for men; and (5) participants tended to rate positive emotions higher than negative emotions. The second part of this study (Experiments 5--6) examined whether or not familiarity with instrumental music affected liking (or preference) of it (e.g., Zajonc, 1968), and whether such familiarity affected emotional responses as well. Finally, this study examined whether such responses transferred to pictures of commonly used words that the music happened to be paired with, and furthermore whether the familiarity of the pictures themselves influenced these responses. This study replicated previous findings (e.g., Peretz, Gaudreau, & Bonnel, 1998) in which 'liking' (or preference) for music was influenced by the familiarity of the music, and also showed that, unlike in some studies (e.g., Hargreaves, 1984), this effect emerged even within a single session (cf., Peretz, et al., 1998). However, this study found that the intensity of the various emotions was not influenced by the familiarity of either the music or the pictures, suggesting that the observed increased 'liking' was due to more of a simple cognitive decision than to one with emotional correlates.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2004.


Media type


Access statement

Part of thesis digitization project, awaiting processing.

Usage metrics

    Theses and Dissertations


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager