Affective Responses to Music Without Recognition: Beyond the Cognitivist Hypothesis

  • W. Trey Hill Fort Hays State University
  • Jack A Palmer University of Louisiana at Monroe


A recent topic of concern for those interested in the science of music is whether affective responses to music are the result of recognition or actual affective experience. Cognitivist researchers have found that individuals recognize rather than feel an affective response when listening to music, while emotivist proponents posit that people have an intrinsic affective experience to music. While it has been promoted that biological methods must be used in order to answer this recognition-experience problem cited above, the current authors employed a more traditional technique (i.e., paper and pencil self-report surveys). Data from the present study show that participants reported statistically similar levels of five different categories of affect, regardless of whether they recognized the intended emotion of the musical clips. Results suggest that the induction of affect while listening to music is not reliant upon recognition, and are supportive of the emotivist position regarding musical emotions. These results may have implications regarding the ultimate origins of musicality in humans.