Image credit: New York University

Musical chills: Effects of stimulus properties, stylistic preference and familiarity

Image credit: New York University

Musical chills: Effects of stimulus properties, stylistic preference and familiarity

Abstract

Musical chills give a convenient insight into what makes music pleasurable because they are widespread, memorable, and observable. Changes in dynamics, texture, melody, harmony, rhythm, and instrumentation have been linked to chills, but few studies have looked at the causal influence of such factors. More specifically, it is unclear whether chills can be felt when listening to any piece of music, or whether they require a specific combination of stimulus-driven properties. Potential effects of stylistic preference and familiarity have also been proposed, but sparsely explored as of yet. In the present study, 93 songs were extracted from a previous survey study in which 221 participants reported songs during which they often experience chills. Each song was then matched with three similarly popular songs from the same artist. Participants took an online test in which they listened to randomly selected 15 s. excerpts for 40 songs and their associated matches, and rated them on liking for the genre of each excerpt and familiarity, resulting in an individual set of 12 unfamiliar songs for each participant, containing three songs for each combination of song provenance (survey or matched) and liking for the genre (liked or disliked). Participants listened to the 12 songs in two lab sessions, separated by a two-week longitudinal phase away from the lab, during which they listened to the full set of songs another eight times. In each lab session, piloerection was measured using a wearable optical device, and participants continuously reported the occurrence of chills and of intensely pleasurable moments using button presses. Preliminary results, at the time of writing, suggest that the probability of experiencing chills, intensely pleasurable moments or piloerection is higher for songs in liked genres. Experiencing pleasurable moments is also more likely for songs from the survey dataset, but other effects of song provenance and familiarity are less clear.

Date
Event
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New York University