Crossmodal transfer of arousal, but not pleasantness, from the musical to the visual domain.Emotion. 2012 Jun; 12(3):618-31.E
Arousal and valence (pleasantness) are considered primary dimensions of emotion. However, the degree to which these dimensions interact in emotional processing across sensory modalities is poorly understood. We addressed this issue by applying a crossmodal priming paradigm in which auditory primes (Romantic piano solo music) varying in arousal and/or pleasantness were sequentially paired with visual targets (IAPS pictures). In Experiment 1, the emotion spaces of 120 primes and 120 targets were explored separately in addition to the effects of musical training and gender. Thirty-two participants rated their felt pleasantness and arousal in response to primes and targets on equivalent rating scales as well as their familiarity with the stimuli. Musical training was associated with elevated familiarity ratings for high-arousing music and a trend for elevated arousal ratings, especially in response to unpleasant musical stimuli. Males reported higher arousal than females for pleasant visual stimuli. In Experiment 2, 40 nonmusicians rated their felt arousal and pleasantness in response to 20 visual targets after listening to 80 musical primes. Arousal associated with the musical primes modulated felt arousal in response to visual targets, yet no such transfer of pleasantness was observed between the two modalities. Experiment 3 sought to rule out the possibility of any order effect of the subjective ratings, and responses of 14 nonmusicians replicated results of Experiment 2. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of the crossmodal priming paradigm in basic research on musical emotions.