We investigated how age and musical expertise influence emotion recognition in music. Musically trained and untrained participants from two age cohorts, young and middle-aged adults (N = 80), were presented with music excerpts expressing happiness, peacefulness, sadness, and fear/threat. Participants rated how much each excerpt expressed the four emotions on 10-point scales. The intended emotions were consistently perceived, but responses varied across groups. Advancing age was associated with selective decrements in the recognition of sadness and fear/threat, a finding consistent with previous research (Lima & Castro, 2011a); the recognition of happiness and peacefulness remained stable. Years of music training were associated with enhanced recognition accuracy. These effects were independent of domain-general cognitive abilities and personality traits, but they were echoed in differences in how efficiently music structural cues (e.g., tempo, mode) were relied upon. Thus, age and musical expertise are experiential factors explaining individual variability in emotion recognition in music.

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