The Effect of Non-Concurrent Music on Viewers' Interpretations of the Emotional States of Film Characters
Research on the effects of music on film has primarily used music presented simultaneously with a scene of interest. In the present study, 177 undergraduate students viewed film excerpts with music presented before or after a scene with a single character, with an overlap of only a few seconds between the music and the characters' presence. The characters had emotionally neutral facial expressions and the music conveyed happiness, sadness, fear, or anger. Participants completed rating scales of the characters' emotional and physiological states, and rated which elements of film were most important in judging the characters' emotions. In the results, reported character emotions matched the music emotions, with generally higher means for pre-scene music than post-scene music. Background music and facial expressions were judged to be the most important film elements in determining the emotions of the characters. Physiological ratings revealed dimensions of valence and action readiness, with pre-scene music rated higher on average than post-scene music for action readiness.