Cochlear implant users rely on tempo rather than on pitch information during perception of musical emotion

Meredith Caldwell, Summer K. Rankin, Patpong Jiradejvong, Courtney Carver, Charles J. Limb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which cochlear implant (CI) users rely on tempo and mode in perception of musical emotion when compared with normal hearing (NH) individuals. Methods: A test battery of novel four-bar melodies was created and adapted to four permutations with alterations of tonality (major vs. minor) and tempo (presto vs. largo), resulting in non-ambiguous (major key/fast tempo and minor key/slow tempo) and ambiguous (major key/slow tempo, and minor key/fast tempo) musical stimuli. Both CI and NH participants listened to each clip and provided emotional ratings on a Likert scale of +5 (happy) to −5 (sad). Results: A three-way ANOVA demonstrated an overall effect for tempo in both groups, and an overall effect for mode in the NH group. The CI group rated stimuli of the same tempo similarly, regardless of changes in mode, whereas the NH group did not. A subgroup analysis indicated the same effects in both musician and non-musician CI users and NH listeners. Discussion: The results suggest that the CI group relied more heavily on tempo than mode in making musical emotion decisions. The subgroup analysis further suggests that level of musical training did not significantly impact this finding. Conclusion: CI users weigh temporal cues more heavily than pitch cues in inferring musical emotion. These findings highlight the significant disadvantage of CI users in comparison with NH listeners for music perception, particularly during recognition of musical emotion, a critically important feature of music.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S114-S120
JournalCochlear Implants International
Issue numberS3
StatePublished - 2015


  • Cochlear implant
  • Music perception
  • Musical emotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Speech and Hearing


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