What Effects Can Art Have on Emotion, and in Therapy?

Jason, Jolly, Lea, and Miriam

Literature, Emotion, and Therapy

Although there is no certain consensus on the total effects that art, in its many forms, can have on the brain of a human being, there are some areas where connections are being made. Christian Obermeiar et al, write that the effect of poetic language on perception and emotion have long been the object of literary studies, for instance, but are now also being examined by cognitive scientists for the same reasons. The Obermeiar study, which seeks to determine whether rhyme, structure, and meter have a quantifiable emotional effect, also serves to offer an amalgamation of the works of many others within the field of cognitive poetics.

Literature and Emotion

In the Obermeiar study, seventeen participants listened to a large set of stanzas that were arranged into eight groups, but mainly differed in three areas: rhyming, meter, and lexicality (that is, whether the stanzas consisted of words with denoted meanings or words without denoted meanings) (Obermeiar, 2013). In the rhyming category, stanzas were either comprised of alternating rhyme, rhyming couplets, or no rhyme. Half of the set of stanzas had metrical patterns, and the other half had no metrical regularity (what is called vers libre, or free verse) (2013). Half of the stanzas were made of real words, and the other half of “pseudo words”. After having the participants report their responses in four areas, these being “likeness” (how aesthetically pleasing the stanzas were) “intensity,” “perceived emotion” (In other words, what emotion was present in the stanza) and “felt emotion” (in the participant) (p. 4) . Obermeiar et al come to the conclusion that

"stylistic and structural devices such as meter and rhyme influence aesthetic and emotional responses to poetry. Specifically, regular meter and rhyme lead to a heightened aesthetic appreciation and intensity of processing as well as more positive emotional responses.” (Obermeiar, 2013, p. 8)

Furthermore, Obermeiar et al acknowledge that further study into the neurological structures and biological basis for these reactions found in their study ought to be performed, and that their study shows a significant enough correlation to warrant further examination.

Obermeier, C. et al. (2013). Aesthetic and Emotional Effects of Meter and Rhyme in Poetry. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(10), 1-10. doi:


Literature and Therapy

The above presentation, delivered by Sherry Reiter, is an excellent resource for understanding the methods, practices, and goals of poetry therapy. Sherry, a pioneer in the field of poetry therapy, has been the president of the National Association for Poetry Therapy, the primary regulatory body for psychologists and therapists who practice poetry therapy in America, which seeks to consolidate research, support, and information regarding the use of poetry in therapy in order to deliver a cohesive and unified form of therapy, the results of which can be analysed carefully and with scientific rigor.

In more practical terms, literature is considered to have a therapeutic effect on both the reader and the composer, especially literature in the form of poetry. Diane Marie Gallagher, PhD in English, defines poetry therapy as "the primary or incidental use of poetry to achieve therapeutic results" (Gallagher, 1996, p. 1). Arleen McCarty Hynes, whose handbook sets the standards and practices for poetry and literature therapy, defines poetry therapy as poetry utilized to

"bring about a therapeutic interaction between the participant and facilitator [in other words client and therapist]"" where "a trained facilitator uses guided discussions to help the clinical or developmental participant(s) integrate both feelings and cognitive responses to a selected work of literature… " (as quoted in Gallagher, 1996, p. 1).

In her doctoral thesis on the subject, Susan R. Makin offers a broad and expansive survey of the areas of influence that poetry has on the individual in terms of psychology and culture, and maintains that poetry has a therapeutic effect on both the reader and creator of the poem (Makin, 1996). As Makin writes in the introduction to her thesis,

"challenging and/or sensitive aspects of one's life, such as sadness, are addressed by looking at the meaning and growth that may ultimately be derived from them. It is explained how, when poets and readers of poetry first embark on their poetic journeys (the author included), they are usually not sure about how they started off. Then, at a later stage, there is usually some form of enlightenment: their inner advisor appears and lets them know the healing and friendship possibilities the company of poetry has provided for and protected them with, unconsciously." (Makin, 1996, p. iii)

The first part of Makin's thesis is a long and thorough survey of the textual evidence for the cultural and emotional significance of poetry. In the third chapter of part one, she provides a catalogue of evidence taken from various writers, readers, and literary theorists about the effects poetry, and the creative process, has had on them. This information would make for an effective summary of the perceived and common belief of the affective capabilities of poetry.
In part three of Makin's work she explains the various processes and exercises used to turn poetry into therapy. She writes that

"when writing poetry 'for therapy' they can all be put aside. Whatever words spring to mind and in whichever way they might be arranged on the page is generally acceptable. If, per chance, there is some order (conventional or otherwise) to the lines' composition and placement, it is an 'added bonus'."(Makin, 1996, p. 170).

Essentially, Makin's point is that the associative exercise of writing words as they are produced in your mind/consciousness and reproduced on the page can have a therapeutic effect (1996). Her assertion that the form, structure, and convention are secondary to the associative exercise is at odds with the Obermeiar et al study, which suggested that the affective power of poetry is more substantial when meter and rhyme (both types of structure and form) are being used. It is important to note, however, that Obermeiar is referring to the reception of a piece of poetry and how it effects emotion, whereas Makin is primarily concerned with the process of creating the work of poetry. This would suggest that the effect of poetry on emotion differs when it is received and when it is created. In section B. of part three, Makin notes that specific colours are associatively linked with specific emotions and feelings (1996). This suggests that the process of drawing up that colour, or ruminating upon it, can lead to a cognitive assessment of the emotions associated with it, and provide understanding, or therapeutic healing. It would be interesting to compare this with Antonio Damasio's Somatic-Marker Hypothesis.

Makin, S.R. (1996). The Arts with Psychotherapy: "I've Been There Too." Poetry as Healer and Friend. Cincinatti, Ohio: The Union


Arthur Lerner (referred to in Makin's thesis) , in his 1997 article “A Look at Poetry Therapy,” acts as the representative for the growing and popular field of poetry therapy to the broader Psychological community, and attempts to delineate and demystify the field for those curious about it. In this article Lerner explains that poetry therapy, while in practice around the world, originated and is primarily developed in the United States of America, where there is a National Association for Poetry Therapy. One important distinction he makes between the craft of poetry writing, and the process of poetry therapy, is that “In poetry therapy the accent is on the person. In a poetry workshop, the accent is on the poetry” (Lerner, 1997, p. 81). This is in line with Makin’s assertion that the emphasis of poetry therapy should not be on the poetry produced but the effect that the process of producing poetry has on the patient. The primary focus of Lerner’s article is to establish the position of poetry therapy as a viable and legitimate method of therapy and “healing” and he does so by properly explaining what poetry therapy constitutes, what processes are in place to make sure it is being practices ethically, and what organizations, both national and international, that exist to support professionals in the field, establish a hierarchy of expertise, and promote further and more specialized research into the efficacy of poetry and “bibliotherapy”. Of especially great interest are the comments that he makes about misunderstanding regarding the field, and the obstacles that hinder understanding; chiefly, he writes that

"The thing that stands out in my mind about poetry and therapy is the feeling of how close these areas are at times and yet in many ways far apart… It is easy to fall into the belief that poetry and healing are so closely related that one who writes poetry can also conduct individual and group therapy sessions on a professional basis without training because of the power of the word." (Lerner, 1997, p. 82).

Essentially, a professional psychologist is still needed to conduct poetry therapy; the poetry itself is not enough to effect the positive change demanded of therapy sessions. Likewise, a professional poet does not have the necessary psychological background to ensure that therapy is conducted in a safe, responsible, effective, or ethical manner. Lerner asserts that, in poetry and other literature based therapies, there is a “participant-literature-facilitator” relationship that must be developed in order for therapy to be effective; the patient interacts with the literature in one form or another, and the facilitator or psychologist helps interpret, guide, and explain the meaning of the literature, in order to garner understanding and positive change in the patient’s cognition (1997).

Lerner. A. (1997). A Look at Poetry Therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 24(1), 81-9. doi: 10.1016/S0197-4556(96)00055-X

While I cannot currently gain access to it, an important text in this field of study is Hynes and Hynes-Berry’s Biblioherapy: The Interactive Process. A Handbook. This book is cited by Arthur Lerner, and offers a wide variety of methods, works, and practices involved in using literature and other forms of media to facilitate therapy. One of the tools that this text offers is a series of criteria that should be met by the literature to be employed in therapy for the greatest efficacy.

Hynes, A.M. and Hynes-Berry, M. (1986). Bibliotherapy: the Interactive Process: a Handbook. Michigan: Westview Press.

Leah Olson-Mcbride applies these criteria to the 17 poems most commonly used in poetry therapy to see if they actually follow the guidelines set out by Hynes and Hynes-Berry, and reasons that in order to have a scientific and regulated discipline such criteria offer a level of control to the number of variables at play (2012). Olson-McBride also quotes a passage from Schloss’s Psychopoetry, which pertinently sums up the ultimate aim of poetry therapy:

A more important issue from a therapeutic standpoint is how well the poetic work serves the immediate or long range goal of acting as an expression of the client’s emotions (as quoted in Olson-McBride, 2012, p. 138).

The two most important things to take away from this article are the notion that poetry and biblio-therapy, and to a broader degree, literature in general, still needs to be submitted to deeper study and research in order to fully understand the effects they have on the patient’s emotions, and the assertion that the expectation of an objective result from any reading of any poem cannot be guaranteed; Olson-McBride shows that the circumstances of the lives of the reader play a significant role in the understanding and affective power of the poem (2012).

Olson-McBride, L. (2012). A Content Analysis of Poems Most Frequently Utilized by Poetry Therapists. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 25(3),

137-149. doi: 08893675.2012.709714

Issues in Poetry Therapy

As was mentioned in regards to Arthur Lerner's article above, there are several issues with poetry therapy. Lerner is primarily concerned with the notion that the artistry might take precedence over the therapy, and stresses that knowledge of poetry, and skill in the craft of writing, does not confer the ability to perform therapy, or lead counselling (Lerner, 1997, p. 82). In her 1996 dissertation, Diane Marie Gallagher, PhD in English, pinpoints several areas of issue in the practice and study of poetry therapy. To paraphrase her introduction, she takes issues with the notion that a facilitator is needed to make use of the “poetry's healing effects” (a principle at the core or Lerner, Hynes and Hynes-Berry, and Makin), with the privilege to interpret the meaning of the poetry, and the experience that the patient undergoes given to the facilitator, with the lack of “testimony or evidence” from the patients, and with “the resulting superficial and scant evidence in poetry therapy literature to support the claims therapists make” (Gallagher, 1996, p. Iii). Gallagher stresses that the poetry can be the “active agent that encourages the client, reader, writer, and/or auditor to facilitate his or her own healing”, and offers examples of such an experience from historical testimony (p. 2). Of great interest is her extensive research into the methodology of Poetry therapy – she too cites the works of Arthur Lerner (Poetry in the Therapeutic Experience, 1978), and Arleen McCarty Hynes (Bibliotherapy the Interactive Process: A Handbook, 1986). The former she calls a “pioneer in the field”, and she notes that the latter is “primarily addressed to a professional audience rather than to clients or readers/writers of poetry” (p. 6-7). To advance her argument for the inherent healing power of poetry, she cites the work of James W. Pennebaker, who

"reports that in the process of writing or talking, the participants in the study (students at Southern Methodist University) who expressed their feelings experienced a reduction of physiological tension(lower blood pressure and heart rate), had greater symmetry in brain wave activity,improved immune function, and made fewer visits to the infirmary than those who did not write about feelings and personal thoughts." (Gallagher, 1996, p. 9).

Note that, for the most part, Gallagher does not challenge the claim that poetry can be therapeutic, but chiefly that a facilitator is needed. To highlight this, she quotes from J.V Cunningham, who, after receiving an “incongruous” and ostensibly incorrect response from her therapy group to a particular poem, states, “these people were desperate to hear a pious, comforting statement [and] were unable to confront bitterness or despair” (as quoted in Gallagher, 1996, p. 14-5). Gallagher also argues that the context (particularly the relationship that the patient has to poetry) of the therapy and the patients background have as much to do with the healing process as the poetry (p. 15-16). It is apparent, at the very least, that the study and knowledge base of poetry-therapy is fractious, and currently in need of greater study; from Obermeiar et al, we see that the very nature of the effect of poetry on emotion requires deeper study, and from both Lerner and Gallagher we see differing and opposing views of how poetry therapy ought to be practised in order to achieve a result that is still under scrutiny.

Gallagher, D.M. (1996). Poetry as Therapy: A Reading of Selected Poems by Dickinson, Sexton, and Gallagher. Stony Brook, New York:

State University of New York.

Drama & Theatre, Emotion, and Therapy

Of all the arts, the dramatic arts, specifically theatre and drama, have been taken for granted for the long lasting impression it leaves on those who experience it. Amy Cook discusses the cognitive impression theatre and drama have on a person when they choose to engage with it. It makes an example of different pieces of play, and explains the cognitive processes the mind goes through in an attempt to understand how the sophisticated language relates to the human condition. David R. Johnson sheds light on the impact the theatre has on the actor, and how through different types of drama they can experience changes in themselves and how they view the world around them. Robert Landy regards drama in a manner of a field that is going extinct, despite it being a necessity and great leap forward in the subject of therapy. They describe various courses of action that are needed to take place in order to improve the field of drama therapy, but also to keep it alive and interesting for future therapists and arts students alike.

Cognitive Approach to Theatre

Psychology’s influence on theatre can not be taken for granted. Freud’s influence is almost impossible to separate from theatre. It is referenced in actor training, performance analysis and even textual analysis. Amy Cook state that performance theory is linked with linguistics. By understanding the language being said in a play, it allows a dramaturgical analysis of said play. It focuses on the spaces primed, though they aren't necessarily overt. That is because language works on both the mind and and body of the listener. the method of processing the language is crucial to theatre scholars. The main challenge is not understanding what is being said, but how it means that (Cook, 581).

Presently, cognitive linguistics argues that language and thinking are creative. They use metaphors, models and various blends. In their book The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending And The Mind's Hidden Complexities, Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner argue that meaning, through metaphor, is constructed to be a blend of mental spaces. Through the use of “social lie”, they display how conceptual blending theory (CBT) can continue where metaphor theory ends. By projecting selected information from the “social” input space, and blending it with some information form the “lie”space right into a separate third place. It creates a brand new idea, that’s not available from the inputs. It’s making a deception for the benefit of others, an entire new community (Fauconnier & Turner, 581). The power of a great, often classic, play lies in its ability in how its meanings are made, and constantly remade over time and generations. Shakespeare did this through imagery. He relied on a succession of different blends that ease a into entire new kinds of future blends. The language stands on associations that have been built along the entirety of the play. His language is cognitively generative, as he weaves blends through the play that ultimately create concepts as they go. The dynamic of this blending structure allows room for the meaning to be created as the play goes along. A description of the spaces is within a network built as a impossible blend, as there’s an infinite number of possible associated spaces. Blending offers theatre practitioners and scholars a tool to improve the staging and design of the scene as it gives way to an understanding to what is meant when one says one thing “works”, whereas others don’t.

Lakoff and Gallese (a linguist and a neurologist, respectively) have found that neural structures that are used in performance (or perceived to, in most cases) are exploited to do more abstract thinking. This can create a connection that is made between a theory of concepts on a higher linguistically level, along with a developing picture of cognition. The idea that the brain exploits the sensory-motor neurons in an attempt to understand abstract concepts (or in theatre; poetic language) suggest that language makes us feel, and that’s done by the activation of our experiences. Simply put: to imagine a feeling, is to understand it.

“Consider a simple sentence, like “Harry picked up the glass.” If you can’t imagine picking up a glass or seeing someone picking up a glass, then you can’t understand that sentence. Our hypothesis develops this fact one step further. It says that understanding is imagination, and that what you understand of a sentence in a context is the meaning of that sentence in that context.” - Lakoff and Gallese, “The Brain’s Concepts”

Mirror neurons are thought to be responsible for our innate action understanding intention, attunement to emotions, communication, and imitation. They are all crucial in theatre, since without them there can be no fear, conflict, dramatic, ironic, subtext or even story. In order to understand action, the brain must stimulate action.

Cook, A. (2007). Interplay: The Method And Potential Of A Cognitive Scientific Approach To Theatre. Theatre Journal, 59(4), 579-594.
Fauconnier, G., & Turner, M. (2002). The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books.

Principles and Techniques of Drama Therapy

Drama therapy can be defined as the intentional use of drama in a creative way toward the psychotherapeutic goals of personal growth and emotional and physical integration, and it often includes role-playing. It has emerged as a profession which stimulates both creative and mental health disciplines and gives off potential for more research in the nature of theatre and interpersonal processes. It takes a more traditional psychoanalytic approaches have been cultivated through fantasy, physical activity and role-playing. Drama therapy is currently being used in the treatment of children and adults, in group or done individually, in hospitals, outpatient clinics, prisons and schools (Johnson, 84). It’s been found to be effective with psychiatric patients of all sorts of diagnoses. It has even helped those who are alcohol or drug abusers, handicapped and even the elderly. The use of improvisation and role-playing is a great mean to encourage self-expression in a person. The major focus of drama therapy is on stimulating a person’s creativity, but also their spontaneity.


When in groups, role-playing is not about the relationships that members have with those outside the group or in the past, but on the development of their interpersonal relationships with those inside the group. However, the main focus of role-playing is in the self. Recurring patterns of behaviour are found in the role-playing of every individual. These are often found to be primed versions of their basic interpersonal stances. It allows individuals to make attempts to increase a person’s self-control by providing them with opportunities to experiment with other roles (Johnson, 84).

Style of Role-Playing

Inhibited styles

In which these individuals have difficulty to participate in pretend activities. Their inhibitions in role-playing stem from the fear of failure and the accompanying ridicule form the audience. In severe cases, the individual can’t personify roles. This can be due to their fear that they might lose sense of who they are, with their personality, as they get further into that of the character.

Overinvolved Styles

It’s characterized by high degrees of physical and emotional involvement in role-playing. The desire for involvement is way more than their need for attention or gratification, and that is motivated by a sense of emptiness and a want to be filled with a different feeling, through a different role. When it gets out of control, this can become a gateway to non paranoid schizophrenia.

Compulsive Styles

The development of the compulsive style is seen as they become too concerned with props, or minor detail with the set, and too much “development” of the relationship to other people. An extreme compulsive person is incapable of functioning at all, and are hindered by the rigidities in their body, actions and role-playing.

Impulsive Styles

They’re characterized by a lack of control over their actions, unpredictability and hyperactivity. They can often take authoritative roles and transform them into a more threatening and tyrannical role.

Johnson, D. (1982). Principles and techniques of drama therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 9, 83-90.

The Future of Drama Therapy

Drama therapy consists of, but not limited to, storytelling and story making, role-playing and role-reversal, provision, masks, puppet plays, and theatrical performances. The strongest approaches to drama therapy are role-playing, psychodrama, and developmental transformations. Drama therapists use these methods to help their clients by looking at their affective styles, strengths and weaknesses, principles and biases. The field has now become very popular, as it’s membership has now tripled in the past 20 years. For university programs, it has become less than important. In fact, there are only 3 MA programs, one of them being in Canada, for drama therapy (Landy, 136). However, the lack of academic programs makes the privatized drama therapy industry grown tremendously. As students finish their training, they find work in a system that that does not validate or support the efficacy and values of drama therapy. Sadly, research for drama therapy is very behind in both theory and its practice. The hope for furthering research lies in those senior drama therapists who are willing to mentor students and professionals, in both academic institutions and private institutes. It’s important to inspire young minds to not only think about the field and continue to practice, but also to dedicate their experiences to furthering research.

Now, the field has not matured to attain a healthy critical perspective of itself. It needs to reevaluate its approach to conferences and keynote speakers and investigate all of their old models. “Drama therapists need to be on the front lines when there is a war, terrorism, disaster, genocide, racism and homophobia, and when there are cultural models of mental health treatment that speak to the strengths and wellness of individuals, rather than pathology (Landy, 140)”. They must also focus on establishing a connection between counselling psychology and drama therapy is important. The integration of the two could result in a more positive outcome for both disciplines. They would both have a solid base in theory and practice. Counselling psychologists would have the opportunity to partake in a playful process, allowing them to be more expressive and to think about their process of individual and group counselling. Drama therapists should also aspire to be more inclined to regard the interdisciplinary connection amongst other art therapists. NADT and other professional organizations should be making better use of their elders by seeking counsel on difficult and persistent matters. Further more, they must attempt to be more critical in examining the field’s strengths and weaknesses. They must explore different approaches and look at the logic and efficacy of every approach. This critical thinking must be applied to the intra- and inter-personally.

Landy, R. (2006). The Future of Drama Therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 135-142.

Music, Emotion, and Therapy

Various studies in correlation to music and emotion have been conducted since the end of the nineteenth century (Scherer, 2003, p.1). The majority of these studies have revolved on the listeners ability to perceive emotions that are expressed and articulated within the music. This being said, Scherer makes note of the fact that despite researchers not being able to come to an agreement on a precise definition of emotions, they tend to largely agree on the characteristics and components of an emotional response. For instance, emotions are typically described as relatively brief and intense; as reactions to possibly important events or changes within the external or internal environments that encompass several subcomponents: (a) cognitive appraisal; for example, one's realization of a “dangerous” situation, (b) subjective feeling; for example, one's ability to be afraid), (c) physiological arousal; for example, one's heart beating faster), (d) expression; for example, one screams), (e) action tendency; for example, one trying to run away, and lastly, regulation; for example, one trying to calm themselves down (Scherer, 2003, p.2). Each and every of these six components can be utilized to measure and assess emotions. Although, despite these components, researchers debate the extent to which these components are coordinated and synchronized during an emotional response (Scherer, 2003, p.2).

Although these studies are at times referred to as the studies of mood induction, the authors of the article maintain that music usually induces emotions rather than moods (Scherer, 2003, p.1).

Scherer, K. (2004). Which Emotions Can be Induced by Music? What are the Underlying: Mechanisms? And How Can We Measure Them? Journal of New Music Research,33(NNMR4), 1-7. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.affective-sciences.org/system/files/biblio/2004_Scherer_JNMR.pdf

Music and Emotion

Music has the ability to induce a broad range of basic and complex emotions in listeners through several psychological mechanisms, such as: Brain Stem reflexes, evaluative conditioning, emotional contagion, visual imagery, episodic memory, and musical expectancy. Each of these six psychological mechanisms contribute to the induction of emotions through music, in various ways, in accordance to the authors.

List of Psychological Mechanisms Associated with Music

Mechanism 1: Brain Stem Reflexes

Brain Stem Reflexes is a term used to describe the process through which an emotion is induced by music as a result of one or more fundamental acoustical characteristics of the music taken by the brain stem in efforts to signal a potentially significant and urgent situation. For instance, sounds that are loud, sudden, harsh, or encompass fast temporal patterns induce feelings of unpleasantness and spitefulness within listeners (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). As a matter of fact, brain stem reflexes to music are reliant upon the early stages of auditory processing. When an auditory signal travels its way to the primary auditory cortex, this process indicates that a signal has already undergone a number of examinations and analyses by brain structures, such as: The olivary complex, the colliculus, and the thalamus (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008).

Mechanism 2: Evaluative Conditioning

Evaluative Conditioning is a name given to the process through which an emotion is induced by music solely due to the fact that this stimulus has been frequently paired with other positive or negative stimuli. For example, if a certain music is repeatedly played during a certain event with your best friend which always made you happy and excited, there is a likelihood for you to have happiness evoke within you as a result of that particular music, even despite the presence of your best friend, overtime (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008).

Mechanism 3: Emotional Contagion

Emotional Contagion is the process whereby an emotion is induced by a segment of music as a result of the listener perceiving an emotional aspect of the music which allows them to imitate this emotional expressional internally. For instance, if the music has a sad tempo or low pitch, it can lead to the induction of the same sad emotion within the listener because of the " peripheral feedback from muscles, or a more direct activation of the relevant emotional representations in the brain" music might have a sad expression (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008) . As a matter of fact, evidence to support the fact that music paired with a specific emotional expression is able to enhance and increase the same emotion within the listener has been signified and examined within several studies (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). Moreover, while it may be unclear as to how exactly the perception of an emotion in the music is able to lead to induction of the same emotion in the listener, modern research has validated and confirmed the fact that people may grasp on the emotions exhibited by others when seeing their facial expressions, or hearing their vocal expressions (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008).

Mechanism 4: Visual Imagery

Visual Imagery is known as the process through which an emotion is able to be induced within a listener as a result of them evoking visual images, such as a beautiful landscape, for example, while listening to music (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). This being said, the emotions that may be experienced maybe due to the close interaction and bond between the music and the images. As referenced within the article, mental images have been regarded as “internal triggers” of emotions, and studies have shown that visual imagery that associates with different emotions include different imagery contents, including different patterns of physiological response (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). It has been suggested that an unique feature of the imagery mechanism is that the listener is able to "influence" the emotions that may be induced by the music. In other words, an individual is able to wilfully manipulate and get rid of the images they may see (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008).

Mechanism 5: Episodic Memory

Episodic Memory is a name given to a process whereby an emotion is induced in a listener due to the fact that the music is able conjure up a memory of a certain event within the listener's life which they are reminded of through the tunes. This being said, research has suggested that music commonly evokes memories (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). Therefore, when that particular memory is evoked, so is the emotion that is correlated with the memory (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). Although these forms of emotions can be intense and strong due to the possibility of their physiological reaction patterns in relations to the original events being stored within the memory (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008).

Furthermore, this form of memory is a type of an induction mechanism that has been prevalently acknowledged as less “musically relevant” by various different kinds of music theorists. However, this being said, conducted evidence suggests that it could possibly be one of the most significant sources of emotion in relationship to music (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). Also, numerous listeners use music to help remind themselves of past events that were of value to them, which thus signifies that music is able to serve as a significant nostalgic function and purpose in our daily lives. Furthermore, music may also enable one to help consolidate a listener’s self-identity (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008).

Mechanism 6: Musical Expectancy

Musical Expectancy refers to a process through which an emotion is induced within a listener as a result of a particular aspect of the music that "violates, delays, or confirms the listener’s expectations about the continuation of the music (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). For example, the chronological series of E-F# signifies the musical expectation that the music will continue with G# (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). However, while the listener has this expectation, if that is not the case, then the listener starts to become surprised as an example as they have an expectation of the musical patterns.

There are various relationships within the different psychological mechanisms. For instance, as emphasized by Juslin and Vastfjall, music can induce and evoke mixed emotions which is a term used to illustrate the fact that the different mechanisms might operate simultaneously at different levels (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008). For instance, in many cases, a particular segment of music is able to make a listener happy in nature because of the happy expressions encompassed within the music, as known as the process of emotional contagion. On the contrary, if a listener listens to sad music and is able to evoke sadness within themselves through a bad memory that the music reminds them of, at the same time, then this indicates that the process and mechanism of episodic memory is in effect. Bearing this in mind, if one was to connect these two aspects, it can be noted that these two mechanisms, although different, can elicit mixed emotions while occurring simultaneously. Therefore, for the listener, since they are undergoing mixed emotions, the entire experience for them becomes bitter-sweet encompassed of feelings of both happiness and sadness (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008).

As a matter of fact, Juslin and Vastfjall also make reference to the following example that exhibits a listener's emotional responses during a concert to further exemplify and emphasize how music is able to induce emotions, as well as how the different psychological mechanisms can come into play for better understanding of music leading to induction of emotions.

"Klaus arrived just in time for the concert on Friday evening … He sat down and the music began. A sudden, dissonant chord induced a strong feeling of arousal (i.e., brain stem reflex), causing his heart to beat faster. Then, when the main theme was introduced, he suddenly felt rather happy – for no apparent reason (i.e., evaluative conditioning). In the following section, the music turned more quiet … The sad tone of a voice-like cello that played a slow, legato, falling melody with a trembling vibrato moved him to experience the same sad emotion as the music expressed (i.e., emotional contagion). He suddenly recognized the melody; it brought back a nostalgic memory from an event in the past where the same melody had occurred (i.e., episodic memory). When the melody was augmented by a predictable harmonic sequence, he started to fantasize about the music, conjuring up visual images – like a beautiful landscape – that were shaped by the music’s flowing character (i.e., visual imagery). Next, the musical structure began to build up towards what he expected to be a resolution of the tension of the previous notes when suddenly the harmonics changed unexpectedly to another key, causing his breathing to come to a brief halt (i.e., musical expectancy). He thought, “This piece of music is really a cleverly constructed piece! It actually made me reach my goal to forget my trouble at work.” Reaching this goal made him happy (i.e., cognitive appraisal) (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2008)".

Juslin, P., & Västfjäll, D. (2008). Emotional Responses To Music: The Need To Consider Underlying Mechanisms. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 564-569.
Retrieved April 8, 2015, from http://nemcog.smusic.nyu.edu/docs/JuslinBBSTargetArticle.pdf

In addition to these six mechanisms that Juslin and Vastfjall makes note of within their article, there are several other mechanisms that contribute to the induction process of emotions through music from Scherer's perspective; appraisal, empathy, and memory. For instance, one mechanism that is made reference to within the article by Scherer is empathy with another person who suffers from a certain emotion through the means of pity or contagion. This mechanism aids in inducing emotions within a listener through music. For instance, listeners are also able to identify with singers and musical performers and their expressive movements which may lead them to induce a certain emotion, as they may see them living through an emotional experience produced by an underlying script, which is a process that may be likely to occur in the case of listening to a performer one may greatly admire acting in a highly emotional manner (Scherer, 2003, p.7).

Moreover, another mechanism that has the capability of inducing emotions via music is imagination or recall from memory. This mechanism is highlighted by Scherer and Zentner within the text. Bearing this is mind, music acts as a means to recall back "affectively loaded memories" (Scherer, 2003, p.8), and bring back to life and into awareness the emotional experiences from an individual's memory (Scherer, 2003, p.7). As a matter of fact, in accordance to Scherer and Zentner, music is one of the most powerful mediums to bring emotional experiences from one's memory back into consciousness . In fact, Scherer and Zentner credit this capability to two factors; (a) music that had an association to the many highly significant events in an individual’s life, such as: Religious ceremonies, marriage, burial rites, dancing and other festivities, etc., and (b) music, as similar to odours is able to be processed in part at levels of the brain that are mainly resistant to alterations by later input, as opposed to "cortically" based episodic memory (Scherer, 2003, p.7).

Scherer, K. (2004). Which Emotions Can be Induced by Music? What are the Underlying: Mechanisms? And How Can We Measure Them? Journal of New Music Research,33(NNMR4), 1-7. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.affective- sciences.org/system/files/biblio/2004_Scherer_JNMR.pdf

Music and the Musculoskeletal System

The role of the musculoskeletal system in music development involves the process of a nerve impulse that stimulates a muscle to contract with a certain force and speed. This being said, when the muscle does so, the part of the body that corresponds with that particular muscle is able to move. In accordance to Manchester, musculoskeletal issues are the most common physical cause of impaired performance ( Manchester, 1988, p.149). For instance, surveys conducted associated with orchestral musicians have shown that roughly fifty percent of them are suffering from a musculoskeletal problem that is performance-related. Not to mention, the majority of such kinds of cases are reporting more than one year of symptoms (Manchester, 1988, p.149). Furthermore, statistics referenced within the text also exhibit the fact that approximately ten of Australian music school students had experienced performance-related pain with an average duration of symptoms of over a year, as signified by the survey conducted in 1987. Moreover, Manchester makes mention of the fact that a couple of years prior to his publishing of this text he reported incidences of hand problems in students at a university-level music school that were their performance related ( Manchester, 1988, p.149). Manchester also makes reference to the fact that statistics conducted during that time resulted in 132 students (44 men and 88 women) recognized as to having 183 performance-related hand problems. As a matter of fact, as similar to these results, freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students were also recognized as to having experienced performance related hand problems as signified within the text ( Manchester, 1988, p.149). Also, the overall occurrence of these hand problems as a result of musical performances related pain was 8.5 episodes per 100 performance majors every year (Manchester, 1988, p.149). Therefore, these results signify that music in terms of its related performances can have an impact on an individual's human body entirely.

Manchester, R. A. (1988). Medical aspects of music development. Psychomusicology: A Journal of Research in Music Cognition,7(2), 147-152. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0094174

Musical Therapy

Music is a unique communication method that ties bonds between groups and is an aspect of bringing a culture together. With this is mind, we see that music can act as a therapy to help individuals recognize tradition and give the ability to rebuild themselves within social contexts. In today’s psychology, musical therapist use the sounds of music, to aid patients in becoming consciously aware of their feelings and confronting their conflicts in a non verbal manner. Also, they use the act of playing music as a method for patients to express themselves. Through using music, therapist can help patients keep emotions tamed, especially internal tensions like fear or anxiety. (Huther, 2008, 127)

Musical therapist have observed three factors about music that can be therapeutic to the mind: familiarity, rhythm and order. When patients listen to music, they recall memories of times in their lives when they felt comfortable and familiar. Associative connection are made with the internal images from their minds, which creates a sense of security and safety. (Huther, 2008, 127) By attentively listening, patients can then take in the rhythm of the music. Therapist have found that when patients absorb this rhythm, their brain’s experience effects of synchronization. Auditory and motor brain regions become harmonized, making thoughts, feelings and action unify together. (Huther, 2008, 127) It would be imaginable that having this unification makes patient feel confident and prepare them to face their unconscious feelings or conflicts. The order of music is referring to the way that it is a song is structured, how it consist of repetitive sounds and develops a main theme throughout. This order helps activate emotional cognitive processing while therapist perform musical improvisation.(Huther, 2008, 128) Musical improvisation involves the practice of playing or listening to music so that a person can recognize their emotions and be able to express them on another person (the therapist). No evaluations are made; this method is solely for the patient to build a dialogue about how they feel and strengthen how they will influence these emotional states. (Huther, 2008, 128) These three propositions explained — familiarity, rhythm and order — support why therapist believe that musical therapy can effectively improve a patient’s health, by giving them the confidence needed to overcome internal tensions they experience.

Huther, G. (2008). Chapter 7: The significance of exposure to music
for the formation and stabilisation of complex neuronal relationship matrices in the human brain: implications for the salutogenetic effects of intervention by means of music therapy. Music that Works. Retrieved from http://books2.scholarsportal.info.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/viewdoc.html?id=/ebooks/ebooks2/springer/2011-04-28/6/9783211751213

As you may have noticed above, there were no specific types of music mentioned that create therapeutic effects and this is because every individual will experience particular genres different. (Rudd, 2010, 57) Music that may be calming to one person, may cause irritation to another person. Even Rudd sums up this explanation well in his book, Musical Therapy: A perceptive from the Humanities.

“In other words, in such a contextual understanding, the music, the person, and the situation work together in a relational or mutual relation where changes in any of these components will change the meaning produced.” (Rudd, 2010, 57)

There are many factors that can effect our experience in listening to or playing music. The situation where we experience the music, past history of playing or listening, the degree of relatedness to our own lives, and of course the music itself can all play a role in how we perceive music. (Rudd, 2010, 58)

Musical therapy is such a difficult study because there is no behaviouristic or cause and effect explanation for it. Psychologists and therapist must take a holistic approach when trying to draw conclusions because findings consistent results is hard to obtain. A large debate in the field of musicology is defining the meaning of music. On one side of the debate, we can look at the words of musicologist Mark Johnson, who believes that meaning is relational. The meaning of music is tied together by our ability to experience feelings and emotions and with how it can relate to our past, present and future. Other musicologists believe that aspects like the verbal language and themes found within the music is what make up it’s meaning. (Rudd, 2010, 62)

Rudd, E. (2010). Chapter 4: Musical Meaning in Music Therapy. Musical Therapy: A perspective from the Humanities. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/lib/oculyork/detail.action?docID=10505796

Issues with Studying Music and Emotions

One issue that is made note of within the text, Emotional responses to music: The need to consider underlying mechanisms, is that for instance, it appears to be odd that music has the ability to induce emotions. Although it has been denied by several authors that music is able to induce common “everyday emotions” such as sadness, happiness, and anger as made note of in text by Scherer by making reference to Kivy and Konecni, the key assumption of appraisal theory is that emotions arise, and are distinguished, on the grounds of an individual's biased evaluation of an event on evaluation dimensions such as novelty, goal congruence, urgency, coping potential, and norm compatibility (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2003, p.560). As a matter of fact, due to the fact that music does not seem to have goal implications, some researchers have assumed that music does not have the capability to induce emotions at all (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2003, p.560) – or at least, it is not a means to induce basic emotions that are related to survival functions (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2003, p.560). On the contrary, however, some researchers believe that there is a possibility that music is able to induce “more subtle, music specific emotions" (Juslin & Vastfjall, 2003, p.560). Therefore, it is signified that the notion that music is able to induce emotions is debatable as there are many perspectives to the belief.

Juslin, P., & Västfjäll, D. (2008). Emotional Responses To Music: The Need To Consider Underlying Mechanisms. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 564-569.
Retrieved April 8, 2015, from http://nemcog.smusic.nyu.edu/docs/JuslinBBSTargetArticle.pdf

Overall Conclusions

There are important conclusions to be drawn from comparing the theories and practices of different forms of arts-based therapies; how each conceptualizes the healing properties of the art, and the art's effect on the mind, in terms of cognition and affect, of the patient or client. In terms of how the arts can induce or effect an emotion in the patient, all three areas (Literature, Dramatic Performance, and Music) are generally perceived to have an effect, though this is hotly contested. The grounds for musics effects on emotion are, perhaps, more sound. Juslin and Vastfjall's six mechanisms describe, in neurological and cognitive terms, the numerous ways that a subjects emotions can be effected by music. Perhaps it is easier to study the effects of music on the brain compared to other arts, as a general understanding of musical composition, or linguistic capability, is not needed to grasp the emotional tenor of music. This is comparable to how non-lexical parameters in poetry (such as meter, rhythm, and rhyme) were perceived to have an abundant emotional effect on the listener. Similarly, the concept of musical expectancy is comparable to a broken rhyme scheme in a poem, which can disconcert or surprise the reader. Across all three areas, associative memory is fundamental to perceiving an emotional effect. Whether performing a piece of drama, listening to music, or composing poetry, one draws on associations and reproduces them in the art; for instance, the idea of "blended spaces" and the idea of linking the word for a colour to an emotional association are very similar; both involve the patient drawing up a mental image of a sign, and drawing interpretations and meanings from that sign, that are then used to understand one's emotions, or one's behaviour. Furthermore, listening for an emotional cue in music is similar to listening for the emotional tone in poetry, or drama. In the case of the latter, the sound of the actors voice, and especially the tone of their language, could be seen to have an effect similar to perceiving an emotional tone in music. In the case of poetry, listening to the poem read aloud may have the same effect. On the other hand, a great deal of the emotional quality of a piece of drama or poetry is found understanding the lexical impact of the words, their syntax, and their meaning in conjunction with metaphors. This raises the issue noted in Gallagher (1996) where the tone of a piece of poetry was entirely constructed by the patients listening to it; the words, their meaning, and their syntactic elements had no bearing on the emotional effect, because the listeners wished to perceive a certain emotion.
There are also striking similarities between the fields of drama, music, and poetry therapy; all three are highly concerned with understanding the patient's emotions through their associations with the art. In all three forms of arts therapy there is a divide between creating the art, and receiving it - in all cases, though, either action is considered therapeutic. For poetry therapy, reading a poem and drawing out its meaning acts as a gateway to understanding one's emotions, and in drama therapy, viewing a play has much the same effect; this is perhaps due, in both cases, to the linguistics involved, as both rely on poetic, metaphoric, or creative language to represent situations and associations, which in turn prompt the patient to imaginatively consider their meaning. Music therapy does the same thing, but instead of relying on language for a source of associations, it utilizes elements of sound for the same purpose; this is interesting when one considers that the aural elements of poetry by themselves (meter and rhythm) have a marked emotional effect. Similarly, composing a poem and performing in a play acts as an effective method for drawing out one's feelings, but drama has the added bonus of the physical activity, which can also contribute to the therapeutic process, and is perhaps more suited to healing difficulties with sociality; it involves one in acting out appropriate roles, instead of simply thinking about them. Another similarity is that all are seen to be therapeutic with and without a facilitating psychologist; the arts are seen to have an effect on the emotions and cognition of the patient, but in the cases of drama and poetry in particular, it also acts as a tool to be employed by a sympathetic therapist. A final similarity is the general misgivings that the larger psychological community has regarding the use of art in therapy; there is a noted lack of research and study in the fields that is harmful to their credibility. This last is also true of music; like drama and poetry, there is as of yet no certainty regarding the efficacy that these arts have on effecting or inducing emotion. However, it is clear that, in a therapeutic setting, art does have some ability to heal psychological wounds; this ability, across the arts, lies in the perceived notion that the arts are capable of representing and signifying one's inner, unconscious emotions, and allowing for greater self-expression and understanding that can serve to promote therapeutic improvement in the patient.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License