Music and Emotion: Psychological Considerations

William Forde Thompson*, Lena Quinto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter reviews theoretical accounts of the relation between music and emotion and presents a cognitive-motor framework for understanding some of its most powerful effects. We first review selected theories and investigations of emotional responses to music. We next discuss evidence that specific attributes of music are individually associated with distinct emotional interpretations, and may be manipulated by performers and composers to convey complex and dynamic emotional messages. We also describe empirical investigations that attempt to disentangle the contributions of cross-cultural and culture-specific associations between music and emotion. Finally, we introduce a body of theory and data concerning the cognitive-motor implications of music, and argue that important emotional effects can arise because music is optimally tailored to instantiate cognitive-motor processes of synchronization. This conception focuses on the capacity of music to resonate with psychological processes that function in human synchronization, and to elicit emotional effects related to these processes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Aesthetic Mind: Philosophy and Psychology
EditorsElisabeth Schellekens, Peter Goldie
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191731815
ISBN (Print)9780199691517
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


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