Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Sound and mood

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Sound and mood:
What is the effect of sound on mood?
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Figure 1. Image of a sound icon.

Have you ever thought about listening to different types of sounds and how it can affect your mood? How does hearing specific sounds / noise / music impact our mood? What exactly happens when we hear sounds to illicit an emotional response to affect our mood?

Sounds are capable of affecting and influencing an individuals mood, however these effects on emotions are significantly changing across individuals and situations (Quarto et al., 2017). This textbook chapter will explore the effect of sound on mood and how it can impact individuals differently in everyday life and wellbeing.

Key questions

  • What is sound?
  • What is mood and how can it be measured?
  • How does sound affect our mood?
  • What is the effect of sound on mood?
  • How can specific motivation and/or emotion theories and research help?


[Provide more detail]

What is sound?[edit]

There are several definitions of sound:

- Kalat (2016) states that sound waves are the periodic compressions of air, water, or other structures that varies in amplitude, frequency, pitch and timbre.

- Sound waves are vibrations of molecules, that must travel through some sort of physical medium, such as air and water (Weiten, 2013).

- Pasnau (1999) states that there are two historical views of sounds: firstly sounds are the object of hearing and secondly that sounds are properties of the mechanism instead of the object making the sound. From typical listening environments, the ear receives compression waves from many different directions, where reverberation is a common phenomenon. The standard view of sound is incoherent as the perception of sound is illusory: for living beings, sounds are not heard as being in the air, however sounds are heard as from the place they are generated (Pasnau, 1999).

Types of sounds

  • music sounds
  • environmental sounds
  • sports sounds
  • travel sounds
  • and many more! .....
  • (Erkan, 2017)
Did you know?

Different living beings interpret sounds differently to each other

Humans... Animals...


[Provide more detail]

What is mood?[edit]

- What is the difference between emotion and mood?

Emotions and moods are similar, however they differ with contrasting: antecedents, action specificity and time course.

Both emotions and mood occur from different antecedent causes: emotions appear from significant life situations that are experienced, whereas moods appear from processes that are unclear and unknown (Reeve, 2014). The action specificity differs as: emotions are typically influenced by behaviour and from a direct specific course of actions, comparatively moods are generally influenced by cognition and direct thoughts. The time course differs as: emotions emerge from short lived events that may last for short periods of time (e.g. seconds or minutes), whereas moods emerge from mental events that may last for long periods of time (e.g. hours or days). Therefore, moods more continuous and long lasting than emotions (Reeve, 2014).

Sound and mood[edit]

Empirical research studies[edit]

Covert digital manipulation of vocal emotions[edit]

Aucouturier et al., (2016) suggest that research has shown that individuals often exert control over their emotions.  Individuals can regulate their emotional experience by modulating expressions, reappraising feelings and redirecting attention.  The concepts of both cognitive and emotional processes are investigated through emotional signals that are produced in a goal-directed way and monitored for errors such as intentional actions.  Aucouturier et al., (2016) experimented on how digital audio platform can covertly modify the vocal emotional tone of participants voices; with emotions of happiness, fear and sadness. The results revealed that audio transformations were being perceived as natural examples of the intended emotions (Aucouturier et al., 2016). The majority of the participants remained unaware that their own voices were being manipulated.  The findings demonstrated that individuals are not meeting the predetermined emotional target of frequently monitoring their voices. Consequently, the individuals emotional state change in congruence with the emotion portrayed while listening to their own voices and this was measured through self report and skin conductance levels.  This study provided revolutionary evidence of peripheral feedback effects of emotional experience in the auditory system.  

The brain[edit]

Figure 2. Anatomy of the human ear.

Serotonin and mood regulation[edit]

- Serotonin

- Mood regulation

Sound recognition and localisation[edit]

Maeder et al., (2001) completed a study on auditory information examined with psychophysical studies in control and brain damaged subjects with relevant localisation and recognition processes. Using fMRI the participant’s brain activation associations with performance in sound identification and localisation was explored.  There were three different conditions: the first conditions consisted of a comparison of spatial stimuli simulated with interaural time differences, the second condition consisted of identification of environmental sounds; and the third condition was rest - the first and second conditions required acknowledgment of predefined targets by pressing a button (Maeder et al., 2001). Each participants brain activation patterns were analysed, along with sound recognition and localisation activation, in comparison to how each participant’s brain reacted differently. Maeder et al., (2001) found that in the first two conditions, there were differing activation patterns of the fronto-temporo-parietal convexity. ~ The middle temporal gyrus and posterior front gyrus areas of the brain were more activated by recognition that localisation.  The lower parts of the inferior parietal lobes and middle inferior gyri were more activated bilaterally by localisation rather than recognition. ~ There were regions selectively activated by sound recognition, significantly larger in women that selectively activated by localisation.  The passive listening concept revealed segregated pathways on superior temporal gyrus and inferior parietal lobe. The findings suggest that distinct networks are involved in sound recognitions and sound localisation in the brain. 

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There is a common fascination for music and how it creates emotional rewards for those who listen to music. Around the world music is existent in many cultures and a part of individuals everyday lives (Zentner, Grandjean & Scherer, 2008).  Even if you are not intentionally listening to music on your phone, you may hear and listen to music on the radio or by walking past department stores in the shopping mall. Music has the possibility of altering an individual's mood or emotion the studies below will further explore the role of music and the effects it has on emotions, mood, and psychological wellbeing.

Emotions from different music sounds[edit]

Zentner, Grandjean and Scherer (2008) investigated how the sound of music can evoke emotions with characterisation, classification and measurement.  With the use of four related studies, music induced emotions were considered, the first two studies examined the perceived emotions; with a list of music relevant emotional terms and distinct  music preferences. The findings from Study 1 and Study 2 presented that emotional responses varied greatly according to the music genre and the type of response – how the participants felt and perceived (Zentner, Grandjean & Scherer, 2008).  For Study 3 a music festival was examined through a field study and structure of music induced emotions by a positive factor analysis of mood emotion ratings.  In Study 4 the model was duplicated from Study 3 and looked at music elicited emotions better than basic emotions and dimensional emotion models (Zentner, Grandjean & Scherer, 2008).   The Geneva emotional Music scale, a domain specific device to measure musically induced emotions. The overall findings revealed that individuals experience different emotional states when listening to music.  For the general results in response to music, negative emotions are experienced simply only infrequently.  Whereas positive emotions varied, and were determined by the type of music. The differences between felt and perceived emotions, from the studies indicated that emotions were less frequently felt in response to music, compared to when they were perceived as expressive properties to music (Zentner, Grandjean & Scherer, 2008). From the studies, it was also found that individuals who listened to actual music and live music performances appeared to converge with music relevant emotion.  The overall goal of these studies was to understand how the sound of music affect emotions, and on a theoretical level the finding show that music evoked emotions goes past the emotions typically experienced (Zentner, Grandjean & Scherer, 2008).

Happy and sad music - emotional perceptions[edit]

Detriments, immediacy and isolation

Emotional responses to music were examined with individuals who exhibited severe deficits in music processing after brain damage (Peretz, Gagnon & Bouchard, 1998).  Six studies were devised to investigate the perceptual base of emotional judgement in music, with the use of classical music that were proposed to convey happy or sad tones.  In the first three studies, participants were required to identify whether the excerpts were happy or sad, on a 10-point scale.  The findings demonstrated how emotional judgements are; highly consistent across participants along with those resistant to brain damage, determined by musical structure and immediate (Peretz, Gagnon & Bouchard, 1998).  The last three studies, participants were assessed on emotional and non-emotional perceptions through the operations of a perceptual analysis system. The overall results found the emotional and non-emotional judgements are the product of distinct pathways and consistent and reliable across subjects.  Individuals cultures may play a role, although emotional responses are extremely variable across individuals (Peretz, Gagnon & Bouchard, 1998).  Additional investigations in neuropsychology may help in furthering the understanding of music, perception and individuals with brain damage.

Psychophysiological differentiation of happy and sad music - the role of tempo

Comparatively, Khalfa, Roy, Rainville, Dalla Bella & Peretz, (2008) investigated the differentiation between happy and sad music.  The respiration rate was an entrainment to measure the emotions, through the rhythm and tempo of the music.  The study aimed to test whether fast or slow rhythm/tempo music was enough to produce differential physiological effects.  This was measured by the participant’s physiological responses such as facial muscle activity, blood pressure and heart rate when listening to fast or slow music (Khalfa et al., 2008).  The findings revealed that there were significant differentiations between happy and sad music, by diastolic blood pressure, electrodermal activity, and zygomatic activity, in comparison to fast and slow music which did not elicit differentiations (Khalfa et al., 2008).  In general this study explored the tonal variations of happy, sad, fast and slow music, with the effect of psychophysiological responses.

Sad music and mood regulation[edit]

Contrastingly, Garrido and Schubert (2013) explored the paradox on the maladaptive effect of how listening to sad music could make people happier and improve mood.  The study investigated participant moods before and after listening to self-selected music.  Measurements of psychometric scales, absorption, personality and reflectiveness were used.  The findings revealed that significant increased depression after listening to self-selected sad music.  The limitations of the study may include the experiment design and listening instructions, as well as future implications for music in therapy, enhancing mood regulation and other health benefits from music (Garrido & Schubert 2013).  

--- Music can significantly affect an individual's mood... Depending on the current baseline mood, music can positively influence an individual by lifting the current state of emotions which can result in improvements in mood, however music can also negatively influence an individual's mood by decreasing or possibly worsening the current state of emotions...

The positive effects of music[edit]

- music therapy, comfort, relaxation, positive mental health and wellbeing

The negative effects of music[edit]

- mood, emotions, the mind, worsen mental states


Theoretical explanations[edit]

- theories on emotions and mood...

- theories on sound...

- theories on both sound and mood...


Test your knowledge on this quiz! Click the correct answer then press submit!


Approximately how many neurons are in the human brain?

1,000,000 (1 million)
10,000,000 (10 million)
100,000,000 (100 million)
1,000,000,000 (1 billion)
10,000,000,000 (10 billion)


A typical neuron fires ________ per second.

1 to 4
5 to 49
50 to 99
100 to 199
200 to 499


  • What are the take-home messages?

See also[edit]


Aucouturier, J., Johansson, P., Hall, L., Segnini, R., Mercadié, L., & Watanabe, K. (2016). Covert digital manipulation of vocal emotion alter speakers’ emotional states in a congruent direction. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, 113(4), 948-953.

Erkan, İ. (2017). Horn Sounds in Transportation Systems and a Cognitive Perspective on the Instant Mood-Condition Disorder. Procedia Engineering, 187, pp.387-394.

Garrido, S., & Schubert, E. (2013). Moody melodies: Do they cheer us up? A study of the effect of sad music on mood. Psychology Of Music, 43(2), 244-261.

Kalat, J. (2016). Biological psychology. 12th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Khalfa, S., Roy, M., Rainville, P., Dalla Bella, S., & Peretz, I. (2008). Role of tempo entrainment in psychophysiological differentiation of happy and sad music?. International Journal Of Psychophysiology, 68(1), 17-26.

Maeder, P., Meuli, R., Adriani, M., Bellmann, A., Fornari, E., & Thiran, J. et al. (2001). Distinct Pathways Involved in Sound Recognition and Localization: A Human fMRI Study. Neuroimage, 14(4), 802-816.

Pasnau, R. (1999). What is Sound. The Philosophical Quarterly, 49(196), pp.309-324.

Peretz, I., Gagnon, L., & Bouchard, B. (1998). Music and emotion: perceptual determinants, immediacy, and isolation after brain damage. Cognition, 68(2), 111-141.

Quarto, T., Fasano, M., Taurisano, P., Fazio, L., Antonucci, L., Gelao, B., Romano, R., Mancini, M., Porcelli, A., Masellis, R., Pallesen, K., Bertolino, A., Blasi, G. and Brattico, E. (2017). Interaction between DRD2 variation and sound environment on mood and emotion-related brain activity. Science Direct.

Reeve, J. (2014). Understanding Motivation and Emotion, 6th Edition. 6th ed. John Wiley & Sons.

Weiten, W. (2013). Psychology Themes and Variations. 9th ed. [S.l.]: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, pp.159-162.

Zentner, M., Grandjean, D., & Scherer, K. (2008). Emotions evoked by the sound of music: Characterization, classification, and measurement. Emotion, 8(4), 494-521.

External links[edit]