• Musical tension in harmonic intervals: behavioral and neural correlates
  • Nese, Mattia <1990>


  • M-PSI/01 Psicologia generale


  • Musical tension is what drives our emotional experience in music listening. However, the specific role of the musical elements involved in tension-resolution perception remains largely unclear. This dissertation aims to advance the understanding of tension perception dynamics related to sensory consonance-dissonance. The first experiment aimed to design and validate a new crossmodal proprioceptive device for tension rating that overcomes some of the limitations of known tools. As a result, a psychophysical equation for the matching of physical force and psychological force was presented. The same tool was subsequently used in the second and third experiments to collect ratings of perceived tension and movement in harmonic musical intervals and standard noises. Besides, a visual analog scale (VAS) was used to allow a comparison of these two methods. The results confirmed the close relationship between sensory dissonance and perceived tension. Moreover, stimuli in the higher pitch register were perceived as more tense, confirming the primary role of pitch as a mediator of tension. The comparison between ratings obtained with the proprioceptive device and the VAS highlighted the tendency to give higher tension ratings using the VAS compared to the proprioceptive device. In the last experiment, brain electrical activity was recorded during the presentation of short tension-resolution patterns created using the most tense (perfect unison, fourth, and fifth) and the least tense harmonic intervals (augmented fourth, minor second, and inverted major seventh) to understand how consonance-dissonance can convey meaningful information on perceived tension-resolution. Results showed overall larger effects during the ‘resolution’ condition compare to the ‘tension induction’ condition, indicating that the resolution of harmonic instability towards a state of stability may be more salient than its opposite. A late positive component (LPC) was elicited, possibly reflecting deeper processing of tension-related meaning within a minimal harmonic context.


  • 2021-03-24


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Nese, Mattia (2021) Musical tension in harmonic intervals: behavioral and neural correlates, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Psicologia , 33 Ciclo. DOI 10.48676/unibo/amsdottorato/9635.