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Development of a validated emotionally provocative musical stimulus set for research

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Psychology of Music

Published online on


Music is a strong emotional stimulus; however, it is difficult to differentiate the effects of arousal and valence. While emotional stimuli sets have been created from words and pictures, a normed set of musical stimuli is unavailable. The goal of this project was to identify a set of ecologically valid musical stimuli for use in research studies of emotion and mood that differ on valence but are matched for arousal, and are also matched with emotionally evocative non-musical stimuli. Three rating experiments were conducted. In the first Stimulus Selection experiment, participants rated short music clips for valence and arousal, and the most evocative clips were selected. In two follow-up Stimulus Validation experiments, two additional groups of participants rated the selected musical and non-musical stimuli, with Experiment 3 confirming that these stimuli work effectively in a noisy environment (within an MRI scanner). The result of these three studies is a set of emotionally evocative, positive and negative musical stimuli, matched for valence and arousal with a subset of previously validated non-musical stimuli.