Adam Barnas



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While listening to music, people emit a variety of responses which can be physiological, cognitive, and physical in nature. The likelihood of eliciting these responses, however, depends largely on the type of emotion that the music is conveying. Therefore, music excerpts need to be categorized by the emotion they convey in order to accurately study how humans respond to music. Furthermore, theories of aesthetics, which concern the study of beauty and art, have emphasized the role of art in evoking, shaping, and modifying human feelings. Recently, researchers are becoming more interested in emotions and art, and a standardized set of emotional stimuli (e.g., paintings) will be beneficial in providing appropriate stimuli for future studies of art and emotions. The present research was aimed at categorizing classical musical and paintings based on characteristics of emotion, such as valence (whether the emotion is positive or negative), arousal (high or low intensity), and dominance (whether the emotion is controlling or dominating), as well as familiarity. Well-detailed and informative databases will be created for use in future experimental investigations of emotion, music, art, aesthetics, and attention. At the present time, there exist such databases for emotional photographs, sounds, and words, but not for paintings or classical music. Participants rated 39 excerpts of classical music and 60 paintings using the Self Assessment Manikin (Bradley & Lang, 1994), a 9-point, non-verbal pictorial ("figure") rating system that directly assesses affective reaction to emotional stimuli. Mean ratings of the characteristics of emotions were calculated for each painting and musical excerpt and will be used to select stimuli for use in future studies. The existence of collections of standardized stimuli that have been rated for emotion allow better management in the selection of stimuli and encourage more exact replications across research labs.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Susan T. Davis

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Characteristics of Emotion for Paintings and Classical Music