Aimee Battcock from Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior - Music Cognition (supervisor: Dr. Michael Schutz [School of the Arts])

What is your research about?

Currently, my research is looking at how performers’ interpretations of musical pieces influence how listeners are able to perceive emotion. Many researchers have studied how emotion is communicated in music, and have uncovered how structural aspects (cues such as tempo, or whether a piece is in the major or minor key) of musical pieces help us identify expressed emotions (Hevner 1935, Livingstone, Muhlberger, Brown, & Thompson, 2010; Thompson & Robitaille, 1992). When performing a musical piece, performers have the wonderful ability to include their own expressive actions, thus varying these musical or acoustic cues (Gabrielsson and Juslin 1996). As a result, this variation may impact what is being conveyed! In addition, the expressive performance of a piece will change from performer to performer, so a listener’s experience will therefore change across performers. My research hopes to investigate these variations and how it changes listeners’ perceived emotion.

What do you enjoy about your research?

Everyone can relate to music in some way, and at one point or another everyone connects to the emotional aspect of it. I have always felt passionate about music, both as a listener and an amateur musician. I love this research because it is addressing what it is about music that makes it so valuable to us: the emotion. It’s a complicated topic to study, but with consideration to its importance and ubiquity, emotion in music is such a fascinating and worthwhile topic.

Extra info

Ideas behind my research:

Our Lab website:

If you’re interested in my work and the work of my lab, you’ll catch us at the 11th Annual NeuroMusic Conference: "Music and Health” happening Saturday, November 14th, 2015 (9:00am-10:00pm) right here at McMaster!


Gabrielsson, A., & Justin, P. N. (1996). Emotional expression in music performance: Between the performer's intention and the listener's experience. Psychology of Music, 24, 68-91.

Hevner, K., (1935) The affective character of the major and minor modes in music. American Journal of Psychology, 47, 103-118.

Livingstone, S. R., Muhlberger, R., Brown, A. R., & Thompson, W. F. (2010). Changing musical emotion: A computational rule system for modifying score and performance. Computer Music Journal, 34(1), 41-64.

Thompson, W. F., & Robitaille, B. (1992). Can composers express emotions through mu- sic? Empirical Studies of the Arts, 10, 79–89.