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Emotional Impact of Different Forms of Spatialization in Everyday Mediatized Music Listening: Placebo or Technology Effects?

Do the spatial cues conveyed by different audio playback technologies alter the affective experience of music listening or is this rather a matter of quality expectations leading to “placebo effects”? To find out, we conducted a 2-factorial between-subjects design study employing “spatialization type” (stereo headphones / stereo loudspeakers / live concert simulation) and “spatial quality expectations” (yes / no) as independent experimental factors. Three-hundred-six subjects rated the perceived intensity of emotional expression when listening to four different musical pieces as well as the overall audio quality. While we observed significant effects of spatialization type on perceived affective expressivity of music and spatial audio quality, expectation-related placebo effects affected perceived spatial audio quality only. Results are discussed in terms of their significance for music and media research.

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