The effects of background music on the evaluation of crying faces

W. Hanser, R.E. Mark, W.P. Zijlstra, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This exploratory study was designed to determine the effects of background music of different valence on the perception of tearful faces and other emotional expressions. Participants (154 men, age range 9–64 years, and 208 women, age range 9–77 years) rated photographs of crying, smiling, anger expressing and yawning unique men and women (N = 12 each) on the following three dimensions: kindness, attractiveness and pleasantness, while concurrently being exposed to happy, angry, sad and calm music, or a no-music condition. Mixed models analysis revealed that observers made more favourable judgments about a crier when listening to sad and calm background music. This particularly concerned the ratings on the dimensions kindness and pleasantness, while calm music additionally increased ratings of attractiveness. Opposite effects were found for angry faces, for which lower ratings were obtained on all three dimensions with calm music. We speculate that calm background music may be helpful to boost social bonding and empathy, when people are in tears.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-85
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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