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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Alignment of Knowing Versus Feeling the Emotion in Music During Middle-Childhood


An examination of emotion recognition and response to music can isolate perception and experience of emotion from the potentially confounding effects of other social cues (e.g., faces). Participants aged 5-6-years-old listened to clips of calm, scary, and sad music and either identified the emotional content of the music or reported on the feelings elicited by the music clip. Children correctly identified the emotions and reported feeling the emotions conveyed in music above chance. Accurately recognizing and resonating with the emotion conveyed were correlated, although the relationship varied as a function of child characteristics. Specifically, children whose parents reported them as showing more prosocial behavior had significantly greater alignment between emotion recognition and resonation. Results provide new insights into emotion perception in the absence of direct social signals and provide evidence that children’s ability to perceive and resonate with the emotion conveyed through music differs depending on key socioemotional characteristics.

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