Using Psycholinguistic Inquiry and Content Analysis to Investigate Emotions in Memories of Musical Experiences

Olivia Swedberg Yinger, D. Gregory Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Psycholinguistic inquiry can provide insight into the way the words people use reflect psychological states, including emotional states. There is limited research on the use of Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software to investigate the psycholinguistic properties of emotional memories related to music. The purpose of this study was to test the extent to which LIWC can be used in the analysis of autobiographical memories related to music. Participants were undergraduates (N = 99) at two large universities in the southeastern United States. Each participant was asked to write about times in their lives when music or experiences with music made them feel positive or negative emotions. The researchers conducted a content analysis of participants’ responses and used LIWC software to quantify emotion words (positive and negative), pronouns, causal thinking words, and insight words. Participants used significantly more positive than negative emotion words to describe positive memories of music, but there was no significant difference between the rates of negative and positive emotion words to describe negative memories of music. The content analysis revealed a similar trend: 51% of participants described mixed, conflicting, or changing emotions when describing negative experiences, whereas descriptions of positive experiences tended to be highly positive. Many participants wrote about social experiences and musical achievement. Results of this study offer insights on how humans describe music-related autobiographical memories. LIWC appears to be a useful tool for method triangulation when performing qualitative analysis of emotions in autobiographical memories of musical experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts Research Enhancement Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Music perception
  • content analysis
  • emotion
  • feelings
  • language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Music


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