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© The Author(s) 2013. Little is known about how extramusical, contextual information about a piece of music influences the emotions induced by that piece. The present study aimed to investigate this question by providing two groups of participants (both n = 30) with two different descriptions regarding the original context of a sad-sounding piece of film music; a description of a concentration camp scene or a description of a nature documentary. The results of these two groups were compared to previously collected data (N = 60), where participants listened to either the same, sad-sounding piece of music without a description, or to neutral-sounding music. The induced emotions were measured as objectively as possible using indirect memory and judgment tasks. The results suggest that contextual information about a musical piece may indeed influence the emotional effects of that piece, as the sad narrative description appeared to intensify the sadness induced by the sad-sounding piece. The narrative descriptions may have enhanced emotion induction via the visual imagery mechanism (suggested by Juslin & Västfjäll, 2008), as 80% of participants in both groups reported thinking about imagery related to the narrative descriptions provided.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychology of Music

Publication Date





262 - 274