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From John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, book 2, chapter 9:

I shall here insert a problem of that very ingenious and studious promoter of real knowledge, the learned and worthy Mr. Molyneux, which he was pleased to send me in a letter some months since; and it is this:—"Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, which is the cube, which the sphere. Suppose then the cube and sphere placed on a table, and the blind man be made to see: quaere, whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could now distinguish and tell which is the globe, which the cube?"

Only recently a definite experimental answer has been given to this question (which is known as Molyneux's problem): "No" (Sinha et al, 2011).

My question goes into the same direction as Molyneux's but concerns audition and emotion, not vision. An answer to this question might give a hint to an answer to the question how it comes that we perceive music as happy or sad.

Suppose a man born deaf, and now adult, and taught to distinguish between happiness and sadness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, which is happiness and which is sadness. Suppose then some happy and some sad music is played, and the deaf man be made to hear: quaere, whether by his hearing, he could now distinguish and tell which is the happy music, which the sad one?

I assume this question only makes sense when there is music that is somehow "objectively" perceived as happy or sad by healthy people (being cross-cultural universals). But this seems to be the case: In many cultures (including Asian and African) fast tempo and major mode music tends to be perceived as happy, and slow tempo and minor mode music tends to be perceived as sad (see Kleinen, 1994, Fritz et al, 2009). So the above experiment is to be performed with prototypically happy (fast, major) and prototypically sad (slow, minor) music.

My question:

Have experiments – like Sinha's for vision – been performed for audition and emotion (with musical stimuli)? What was the result?


References:

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