Perceiving Emotion in Sounds: Does Timbre Play a Role?
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Acoustic features of sound such as pitch, loudness, perceived duration and timbre have been shown to be related to emotion in regard to sound, demonstrating that an important connection between the perceived emotions and their timbres is lacking. This study investigates the relationship between acoustic features of sound and emotion in regard to timbre. In two experiments we investigated whether particular acoustic components of sound can predict timbre, and particular categories of emotion, and how these attributes are related. Two behavioral experiments related perceived emotion ratings with synthetically created sounds and International Affective Digitized Sounds (Bradley & Lang, 2007) sounds. Also, two timbre experiments found acoustic components of synthetically created sounds, and IADS. Regression analyses uncovered some relationships between emotion, timbre, and acoustic features of sound. Results indicate that emotion is perceived differently for synthetic instrumental sounds and IADS. Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients were a strong predictor of perceived emotion of instrumental sounds; however, this was not the case for the IADS. This difference lends itself to the idea that there is a strong relationship between emotion and timbre for instrumental sounds, perhaps in part because of their relationship to speech and the way these different sounds are processed.
Bowman, Casady (2011). Perceiving Emotion in Sounds: Does Timbre Play a Role?. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from