Previous music and emotion research suggests that individual differences in empathy, alexithymia, personality traits, and musical expertise might play a role in music-perceived emotions. In this study, we investigated the relationship between these individual characteristics and the ability of participants to recognize five basic emotions (happiness, sadness, tenderness, fear, and anger) conveyed by validated excerpts of film music. One hundred and twenty participants were recruited through an online platform and completed an emotion recognition task as well as the IRI (Interpersonal Reactivity Index), TAS-20 (Toronto Alexithymia Scale), BFI (Big Five Inventory), and Gold-MSI (Goldsmiths Musical Sophistication Index). While participants recognized the emotions depicted by the music at levels that were better than chance, their performance accuracy was negatively associated with the externally oriented thinking subscale from the TAS-20. Our results suggest that alexithymia, previously linked to a deficit in perception of facial and vocal expressions of emotion, is also associated with difficulties in perception of emotions conveyed by music.
IT HAS BEEN ARGUED, IN VIEW OF THE SOCIAL evolutionary origins of music and the social deficits found in autism, that individuals with autism will be emotionally unresponsive to music. However, a recent study of high-functioning adults with autism has shown that they appear to have a range of responses to music similar to typically developing people, including the deliberate use of music for mood management. In examining why these responses appear unaffected in autism, we explore possible mechanisms for musical mood induction in listeners, hypothesizing that the simulation theory of empathy may illuminate current controversies over the nature of emotion in music. Drawing on these ideas, we put forward suggestions for using a simple associative learning process between musically induced emotions and their cognitive correlates for the clinical treatment of alexithymia, a disorder that is common in autism and characterized by an absence of cognitive insight into one's emotions.