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      Listening to the Shepard-Risset Glissando: the Relationship between Emotional Response, Disruption of Equilibrium, and Personality

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          The endless scale illusion, obtained by cyclically repeating a chromatic scale made up of Shepard tones, has been used in a variety of musical works. Music psychology and neuroscience has been interested in this particular psychoacoustic phenomenon mainly for studying the cognitive processes of pitch perception involved. In the present study, we investigated the emotional states induced by the Shepard-Risset glissando, a variant of the Shepard scale. For this purpose we chose three musical stimuli: a Matlab-generated Shepard Risset glissando, Jean-Claude Risset's Computer Suite from Little Boy, which presents a Shepard-Risset glissando integrated in the aesthetic context of a composition, and an ordinary orchestral glissando taken from the opening of Iannis Xenakis's Metastasis. Seventy-three volunteers completed a listening experiment during which they rated their emotional response to these stimuli on a seven-point Likert scale and indicated whether they had experienced a disruption of equilibrium. Personality was also measured with the Five-Factor Model of personality traits. The results show that negative emotions were most strongly evoked during listening to each of the stimuli. We also found that the Shepard-Risset glissando illusion, both within the aesthetic context of a musical composition and on its own, was capable of evoking disruption of equilibrium, frequently leading to the associated feeling of falling. Moreover, generally for the Shepard-Risset glissando illusion, higher negative emotional ratings were given by individuals who had experienced a feeling of disturbance of equilibrium relative to those who had not had this experience. Finally, we found a complex pattern of relationships between personality and the subjective experience of the glissando. Openness to experience correlated positively with positive emotion ratings for the Computer Suite, while agreeableness correlated negatively with positive emotion ratings for the Matlab stimulus. Moreover, results indicated higher (Bonferroni-uncorrected) neuroticism for those who experienced an equilibrium disturbance relative to subjects who did not have this experience during listening to the Computer Suite. These findings suggest that musical paradoxes may be of interest not only for the insights they provide on our perceptual system, but also for the richness of the emotional experience elicited during listening.

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          Most cited references 41

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            Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion.

            We used positron emission tomography to study neural mechanisms underlying intensely pleasant emotional responses to music. Cerebral blood flow changes were measured in response to subject-selected music that elicited the highly pleasurable experience of "shivers-down-the-spine" or "chills." Subjective reports of chills were accompanied by changes in heart rate, electromyogram, and respiration. As intensity of these chills increased, cerebral blood flow increases and decreases were observed in brain regions thought to be involved in reward/motivation, emotion, and arousal, including ventral striatum, midbrain, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, and ventral medial prefrontal cortex. These brain structures are known to be active in response to other euphoria-inducing stimuli, such as food, sex, and drugs of abuse. This finding links music with biologically relevant, survival-related stimuli via their common recruitment of brain circuitry involved in pleasure and reward.
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              Personality and susceptibility to positive and negative emotional states.

              Gray's (1981) theory suggests that extraverts and neurotics are differentially sensitive to stimuli that generate positive and negative affect, respectively. From this theory it was hypothesized that efficacy of a standard positive-affect induction would be more strongly related to extraversion than to neuroticism scores, whereas efficacy of a standard negative-affect induction would be more strongly related to neuroticism scores. Positive and negative affect was manipulated in a controlled setting, and the effectiveness of the mood induction was assessed using standard mood adjective rating scales. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that neurotic Ss (compared with stable Ss) show heightened emotional reactivity to the negative-mood induction, whereas extraverts (compared with intraverts) show heightened emotional reactivity to the positive-mood induction. Results corroborate and extend previous findings.

                Author and article information

                1Music and Audio Research Laboratories, Department of Languages and Literature, Communication, Education and Society, University of Udine Udine, Italy
                2IRCCS “Eugenio Medea” San Vito al Tagliamento, Italy
                3Department of Medical and Biological Sciences, University of Udine Udine, Italy
                Author notes

                Edited by: Franziska Degé, Justus-Liebig-University, Germany

                Reviewed by: Anna Wolf, Hanover University for Music, Drama, and Media, Germany; Hauke Egermann, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany

                *Correspondence: Eveline Vernooij eveline.vernooij@

                This article was submitted to Cognition, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                04 March 2016
                : 7
                26973584 4777920 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00300
                Copyright © 2016 Vernooij, Orcalli, Fabbro and Crescentini.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 2, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 66, Pages: 10, Words: 8915
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