Speaking to the trained ear: musical expertise enhances the recognition of emotions in speech prosody.Emotion. 2011 Oct; 11(5):1021-31.E
Language and music are closely related in our minds. Does musical expertise enhance the recognition of emotions in speech prosody? Forty highly trained musicians were compared with 40 musically untrained adults (controls) in the recognition of emotional prosody. For purposes of generalization, the participants were from two age groups, young (18-30 years) and middle adulthood (40-60 years). They were presented with short sentences expressing six emotions-anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise-and neutrality, by prosody alone. In each trial, they performed a forced-choice identification of the expressed emotion (reaction times, RTs, were collected) and an intensity judgment. General intelligence, cognitive control, and personality traits were also assessed. A robust effect of expertise was found: musicians were more accurate than controls, similarly across emotions and age groups. This effect cannot be attributed to socioeducational background, general cognitive or personality characteristics, because these did not differ between musicians and controls; perceived intensity and RTs were also similar in both groups. Furthermore, basic acoustic properties of the stimuli like fundamental frequency and duration were predictive of the participants' responses, and musicians and controls were similarly efficient in using them. Musical expertise was thus associated with cross-domain benefits to emotional prosody. These results indicate that emotional processing in music and in language engages shared resources.