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Peter Varga

BA, MS Psychology

DPhil Candidate

  • Emotion & Social Relations Group

Interpersonal transfer of affective states in music


The role of emotion and social relations in the creation and curation of the arts carries compelling implications for cultural evolution and remains an area of great interest in psychological literature.  Of all the arts, music has been recognized to be a particularly effective medium for capturing and conveying emotion between its creators and consumers.  My research specifically examines the transfer of emotion and higher psychological states (e.g., inspiration) via music from composers to listeners through performers.  My current project employs experimental paradigms previously developed to examine emotion transfer and inspiration 'contagion' in visual art and creative writing utilising cross-classified statistical models combined with conditional process analysis.  

My past research has examined writing apprehension and self-efficacy, mental load and performance, lunar psychophysics and virtual reality, cognitive integration and differentiation, the chills, imagination and inspiration in the creative process, aesthetics and spiritual yearning as correlates of wellbeing in science, and higher goods as indicators of self-transcendent wellbeing.


My research brings together my lifelong love of music, strong foundation in philosophy and theology, and deep academic interest in psychological science.  I studied guitar performance at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts while concurrently serving as Organ Scholar at St Dominic's Church, San Francisco.  I received my BA in psychology from The Catholic University of America (Washington, DC) with minors in neuroscience, philosophy, and theology & religious studies, earning honors in classical philosophy, theology, and humanities.  Whilst a visiting student from Catholic University at Christ Church, I undertook tutorials in philosophy; John Henry Newman; and art, culture, and Christian theology with Revd Dr Andrew Teal (Pembroke College, Oxford).  I received my MS in psychological sciences from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, where I directed the William & Mary Schola Cantorum and was Lead Consultant in the Writing Resources Centers.  My DPhil in experimental psychology is supervised by Prof Brian Parkinson at Christ Church.


Prelims Social Psychology (Lady Margaret Hall)