Names and Titles Matter: The Impact of Linguistic Fluency and the Affect Heuristic on Aesthetic and Value Judgements of Music

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Abstract

It has been shown that titles influence peoples’ evaluation of visual art. However, the question of whether titles and artist names affect listeners when evaluating music has not yet been investigated. By using two well-known cognitive heuristics, the authors investigated whether names presented with music pieces influenced aesthetic and value judgments of music. Experiment 1 (N = 48) focused on linguistic fluency. The same music excerpts were presented with easy-to-pronounce (fluent) and difficult-to-pronounce (disfluent) names. Experiment 2 (N = 100) studied the affect heuristic. The same music excerpts were presented with positive (e.g., Kiss), negative (e.g., Suicide), and neutral (e.g., Window) titles. In both studies, aesthetic and value judgments of music were significantly influenced by the linguistic manipulation of the names. Participants in Experiment 1 evaluated the same music more positively when presented with fluent names compared to disfluent names. In Experiment 2, presenting the music with negative titles resulted in the lowest judgments. Moreover, music excerpts presented with neutral and negative titles were remembered significantly more often than positive titles. Finally, a comparison of the music presented with and without titles indicated that music excerpts were more liked in the presence of titles than in their absence. The present research shows different ways in which aesthetic and value judgments can be influenced by the names presented with music. Results suggest that like any other human judgment, evaluations of music also rely on heuristic principles that do not necessarily depend on the aesthetic stimuli themselves.

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