How Music Can Change Evaluations of Social Situations: Exploring the Influence of Emotional States and Perceived Group Characteristics
Wie Musik Bewertungen sozialer Situationen verändern kann: Einflüsse von emotionalen Zuständen und wahrgenommenen Gruppencharakteristika

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Mia Kuch
Clemens Wöllner


In everyday life, music is increasingly being listened to through headphones and mobile devices in public situations. While a large body of research has demonstrated that music may influence the emotional states of listeners and affect multimodal perceptions i.e. in films, less is known about the music’s impact on environments and the interpretation of social situations. We conducted an online experiment to investigate the influence of music on evaluations, considering individuals’ emotional states (emotion congruence) and group perception. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions (music with positive valence and high arousal, music with negative valence and low arousal, and no music) while viewing images of two different social group types that varied in perceived group characteristics (group members being familiar or unfamiliar with each other). Images were rated on four bipolar scales measuring affective quality and cognitive evaluation of social situations. Results show that individuals who listened to negative music provided lower valence ratings and also judgded social environments lower in terms of pleasantness and cheerfulness (affective) than individuals in the other experimental conditions. In contrast, ratings of crowdedness and familiarity (cognitive) did not differ between experimental conditions. The effect of music on affective evaluations was shaped by social group types, such that participants were more influenced by music when viewing intimacy groups (e.g., friends) than when viewing transitory groups (e.g., strangers). Overall, our results support the assumption of mood congruency for affective evaluations and emphasize the need to consider social information when studying the influence of music on the perception of environments.

music listening; audiovisual experiment; emotions; entitativity; affect congruence; perception; social environment

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