Aesthetic responses to music form an integral part of music reception. Nonetheless, little psychological and neuroscientific research has so far been dedicated to specifically study aesthetic music processing. In the present thesis, four studies were conducted relying on both behavioural and electrophysiological approaches to shed light on music aesthetic processing and potential sub-processes. In Study 1, the music aesthetic judgment process was investigated by focusing on differences between music experts and laypersons. The aim of Study 2 was to determine how musical experience and musical taste (i.e. long-term preferences for specific genres) interact with each other in determining momentary aesthetic judgements of musical stimuli. Taking into account that outside the laboratory aesthetic responses to music often occur without demand, a third study was devised, exploring spontaneously occurring processes related to music aesthetics during incidental music listening with electrophysiological measures. Following up on this, spontaneous responses to musical stimuli in an incidental listening situation were also investigated in Study 4 using the affective priming paradigm (APP) as an experimental procedure.
Taken together, the results demonstrated that aesthetic music processing in highly experienced participants was marked by a more cognitive than affective approach. Judging from the ERP results of Studies 1 and 3, experienced participants, in comparison to less experienced participants, had a more ample basis of information at their disposal, which relied on the outcomes of perceptual and cognitive stimulus analyses, and on which they were able to draw during the aesthetic judgement process. Experienced participants did, however, also engage in spontaneous affective evaluation of musical stimuli (Study 4). Thus, they met the precondition necessary to potentially be able to rely on affective aspects during the aesthetic judgement process. It was furthermore concluded that taking potentially confounding effects of musical taste into account is not only important in studies on aesthetic music processing, but could also be beneficial in studies on music perception and cognition. Relying on an interactive model, as has been done in Study 2, when determining the factors responsible for currently observed musical behaviour, promises to be expedient for future studies.
Aesthetic responses to music form an integral part of music reception. Nonetheless, little psychological and neuroscientific research has so far been dedicated to specifically study aesthetic music