Preschoolers' attribution of affect to music: a comparison between vocal and instrumental performance

Franco, Fabia ORCID:, Chew, Marcia and Swaine, Joel Simon (2017) Preschoolers' attribution of affect to music: a comparison between vocal and instrumental performance. Psychology of Music, 45 (1) . pp. 131-149. ISSN 0305-7356 [Article] (doi:10.1177/0305735616652954)

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Research has shown inconsistent results concerning the ability of young children to identify musical emotion. This study explores the influence of the type of musical performance (vocal vs. instrumental) on children’s affect identification. Using an independent-group design, novel child-directed music was presented in three conditions: instrumental, vocal-only, and song (instrumental plus vocals) to 3- to 6-year-olds previously screened for language development (n = 76). A forced-choice task was used in which children chose a face expressing the emotion matching each musical track. All performance conditions comprised ‘happy’ (major mode/fast tempo) and ‘sad’ (minor mode/slow tempo) tracks. Nonsense syllables rather than words were used in the vocals in order to avoid the influence of lyrics on children's decisions. The results showed that even the younger children were able to identify correctly the intended emotion in music, although ‘happy’ music was more readily recognized and recognition appeared facilitated in the instrumental condition. Performance condition interacted with gender.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online before print August 1, 2016
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
Item ID: 19531
Notes on copyright: The published version of the article is available on SAGE Journals (
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Depositing User: Fabia Franco
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2016 09:34
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2021 19:13

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