Music Perception
Viewers' Interpretations of Film Characters' Emotions: Effects of Presenting Film Music Before or After a Character is Shown
Siu-Lan Tan, Matthew P. Spackman, Matthew A. Bezdek

Abstract

STUDIES ADDRESSING EFFECTS OF MUSIC ON VIEWERS' perceptions of film have usually presented music simultaneously with a scene of interest. In the present study, 177 undergraduates viewed film excerpts with music presented before or after a scene featuring a single character. Whereas the film characters had emotionally neutral or subdued facial expressions, the music conveyed happiness, sadness, fear, or anger. Overall, participants tended to interpret characters' emotions in ways that were consistent with the particular emotion expressed in the music, offering evidence for both forward and backward affective priming effects. Our data confirm Boltz, Schulkind, and Kantra's (1991) findings on the role of music in foreshadowing. As far as we are aware, the effects of music on a prior scene have not been demonstrated in film music research. Our findings suggest that music does not have to be presented concurrently with onscreen images to influence viewers' interpretations of film content.

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