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EC fails the “Dagometer” schmaltz test…

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This was published 14 years ago

Dag-ometer proves it: schmaltz is out

By Erik Jensen

July 11, 2007 — 10.00am

THERE is a reason why some people gag at Barbra Streisand songs and Barry Manilow can chase teenagers out of car parks, a Sydney academic has found.

A University of NSW music psychologist Emery Schubert argues these responses are caused by a differential affect gap (DAG) - a discrepancy between the emotion expressed in a song and the emotion felt by the listener.

His research found young listeners placed a 57 per cent gap between their emotions and the emotions in Eric Carmen's 1998 schmaltz-fest I was Born to Love You, but only a 4 per cent gap between their emotions and John Butler Trio's Pickapart.

"What we found was that when there was a large gap between felt and expressed emotion, music was liked less," Dr Schubert said. "This is a new finding - no one's ever actually used this scale before."

The scale comes from asking people to plot their emotions while listening to a piece of music, using the four points of dimensional emotion: valence, arousal, emotional strength and dominance.

"People like a small gap between felt and expressed emotion, a small differential affect gap. [The research] identifies a new method for rating musical preference through an implicit method," he said.

But the formula will not replace radio station music directors. "It's too hard to program a station like that. You don't know where people are, or how they're feeling," the program director at WSFM, Charlie Fox, said.

While unconvinced by the science of the findings, record company talent scout Matt O'Connor said the theory of emotional congruity was something he used. "It's not a formula. It's about a great song with a great melody content and a great emotional content," he said.

The key factor influencing people's appreciation of music is familiarity, although Dr Schubert said about 25 per cent of the response was from the DAG factor. "What this DAG factor is doing, it doesn't say that a piece needs a lot of emotion, just that the emotion needs to match that of the listener to cash in on that 25 per cent. That's the new factor," he said.

His findings, based on almost six years' research, will be published in British science journal Psychology of Music

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