Cross-cultural anger communication in music: Towards a stereotype theory of emotion in music

Marco Susino, Emery Schubert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Anger perception in music was investigated to determine if this emotion is cross-culturally decoded. A literature review of studies which investigated anger cross-culturally revealed variance between encoders and decoders. In an attempt to explain this variance, these data were examined using existing cross-cultural theories in music psychology, but each was poor in explaining some of the variance observed. For example, none were able to explain explicitly why anger expressed in Japanese music was poorly decoded by Indian, Japanese, and Swedish listeners. New interpretations of the published data were conducted through Hofstede’s cross-cultural dimensions theory and the theory of musical fit. Building on these theories, the Stereotype Theory of Emotion in Music (STEM) was proposed. According to STEM, listeners filter the emotion they perceive according to stereotypes of the encoding culture. For example, Japanese culture is stereotyped as an anger-reticent culture, explaining the low anger decoder ratings for ‘anger-encoded’ music. STEM suggests that anger perception is culturally influenced by a stereotyping process. The theory predicts that anger will be perceived if the decoding culture has no stereotype associated with the culture the music is believed to be from, leaving the music free to be interpreted through psychophysical or culture-specific cues. STEM presents a new way forward in understanding the cognitive processing of emotion in music.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-74
Number of pages15
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • anger
  • cross-cultural
  • culture-specific cues
  • emotion perception
  • musical emotion
  • Stereotype
  • music
  • stereotype


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