THE EFFECT OF COMPLEXITY ON PERCEPTION OF EMOTION AND EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN MUSIC
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The purpose of this study was to study the impact of complexity (simple versus complex) on the perception of emotion and emotional intensity in music. Based on published research defining musical elements characteristic of various basic emotions, the researcher composed musical clips to represent five basic emotions (happy, sad, tenderness, fear, and anger) in two different complexity levels (simple and complex). These clips included happy-simple, happy-complex, sad-simple, sad-complex, anger-simple, anger-complex, tenderness-simple, tenderness-complex, fear-simple, and fear-complex. Participants listened to each clip, presented in a random order, and identified the perceived emotion from the given list of five emotions and ranked their perception of the emotional intensity on a scale from 0 (not at all intense) to 10 (highest intensity). Results indicate that participants accurately identified the emotions in 10 given music clips more often when the music was complex versus simple. However, participants reported similar perceived emotional intensity levels in both simple and complex music clips. Taken together, these findings suggest that complex music may provide stronger musical cues as required to accurately perceive emotions in music, although future research is necessary to examine this phenomenon and to address practical applications for using simple or complex music with music therapy clients to address emotion-based goals.
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