Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joan C. Borod

Committee Members

Justin Storbeck

Howard Erlichman

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Neuroscience | Music Education | Music Performance | Music Theory | Music Therapy | Other Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Other Psychology


emotion perception, music education, musical training, emotion processing, music perception


Research has suggested that intensive musical training may result in transfer effects from musical to non-musical domains. There is considerable research on perceptual and cognitive transfer effects associated with music, but, comparatively, fewer studies examined relationships between musical training and emotion processing. Preliminary findings, though equivocal, suggested that musical training is associated with enhanced perception of emotional prosody, consistent with a growing body of research demonstrating relationships between music and speech. In addition, few studies directly examined the relationship between musical training and the perception of emotions expressed in music, and no studies directly evaluated this relationship in the facial and lexical channels of emotion communication. In an effort to expand on prior findings, the current study characterized emotion perception differences between musicians and non-musicians in the prosodic, lexical, and facial channels of communication and in music.

A total of 119 healthy adults (18-40 years old) completed the study. Fifty-eight were musicians and 61 were controls. Participants were screened for neurological and psychiatric illness. They completed emotion perception tasks from the New York Emotion Battery (Borod, Welkowitz, & Obler, 1992) and a music emotion perception task, created for this project, using stimuli developed by Eerola and Vuoskoski (2011). They also completed multiple non-emotional control measures, as well as neuropsychological and self-report measures, in order to control for any relevant participant group differences. Parametric and non-parametric statistical procedures were employed to evaluate for group differences in emotion perception accuracy for each of the emotional control tasks. Parametric and non-parametric procedures were also used to evaluate whether musicians and non-musicians differed with regard to their perception of basic emotions.

There was evidence for differences in emotion perception between musicians and non- musicians. Musicians were more accurate than non-musicians for the prosodic channel and for musical emotions. There were no group differences for the lexical or facial channels of emotion communication. When error patterns were examined, musicians and non-musicians were found to make similar patterns of misidentifications, suggesting that musicians and non-musicians were processing emotions similarly.

Results are discussed in the context of theories of music and speech, emotion perception processing, and learning transfer. This work serves to clarify and strengthen prior research demonstrating relationships between music and speech. It also has implications for understanding emotion perception as well as potential clinical implications, particularly for neurorehabilitation. Lastly, this work serves to guide future research on music and emotion processing.