The Role of Emotion in the Interpretation of Sounds
Licentiate thesis, 2011
Historically there has been a conceptual distinction between reason and passion, i.e. emotions and higher levels of cognitive processing has been viewed apart from each other and studied separately. Recent research suggest a more dynamic interaction where the emotional responses may affect several aspects of higher level cognitive functioning. This thesis focuses on how an integrated analysis can discern the relationship between interpretation and emotion responses in auditory signals. It concludes that the interpretations of perceptual qualities in sounds are affected by the emotional responses to the sounds.
Paper I studied auditory alerts in two stages. First by a general dissimilarity rating where the participants rated perceived dissimilarity. This resulted in a two-dimensional multidimensional scaling solution. In a second experiment the participants rated each sound with semantic descriptors as well as their emotional reactions measured by hedonic valence and arousal. The results from the two experiments were then integrated by the use of multidimensional perceptual unfolding and a set mediation analyses. The latter showed that part of the cognitive categorization of the semantic descriptors was mediated by the emotional reactions to the sounds.
Paper II further investigated the role of emotion in interpretation of perceptual qualities in everyday sounds. The participants conducted a general dissimilarity rating of 12 sounds, parametrically chosen from three levels of hedonic valence (high, neutral, low) and four categories of sounds (human, animals, environmental, and mechanical). Afterwards the participants rated their emotional reaction to each sound. At a second occasion, same participants conducted seven focused dissimilarity ratings concerning emotional aspects and perceptual qualities in the sounds. The general dissimilarity ratings resulted in a three-dimensional scaling. Both the emotional reactions as well as the perceptual qualities from the specific dissimilarity ratings (in at least one dimension) could explain the first dimension in the general perceptual space. Subsequent mediation analyses revealed that the emotional responses mediated the physical perception.
The second and the third dimension were explained by theory-categorization.
E.g. in the second dimension the participants differentiated between living and nonliving sources.
The two paper together support the use of integrated analysis to determine the underlying perceptual mechanisms in perception of sounds. The research suggests that emotional reactions are fundamental in interpretation of perceptual qualities in sounds and that emotion categorization is a strong influence in perception. This further suggests that auditory signals are promising in promoting emotion regulation. This could be applied in e.g. restorative soundscapes.