Emotion response and regulation to “happy” and “sad” music stimuli: Partial synchronization of subjective and physiological responses

Elizabeth L. White, Nikki S. Rickard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Music has been demonstrated to induce strong emotional responses in listeners, but listeners’ capacity to regulate this response has not yet been experimentally examined. In this study, 32 participants (Mage = 20.22 years, SD = 2.45; 72% female) listened to short music excerpts (four “happy” and four “sad” pieces) with instructions to “feel” or to “regulate” (specifically, “reduce” sadness or “strengthen” happiness) the emotional response to the music. Self-reported “sadness” and “happiness” ratings and physiological responses (skin conductance and heart rate) were recorded at baseline and continuously across all conditions. Under the “feel” instruction, both “happy” and “sad” music resulted in an increase in self-reported emotion ratings, and a decline in skin conductance and heart rate. These responses were effectively regulated for both “happy” and “sad” music across all measures except heart rate response. These findings partially support the prediction that music would induce coherent changes across self-reported and physiological measures during both emotion induction and emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-25
Number of pages15
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • affect regulation
  • conductance
  • emotional response
  • heart rate
  • multicomponent
  • skin
  • subjective
  • synchronized

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