Photo: Nubelson Fernandes


A groundbreaking study conducted by the Turku PET Centre has unveiled that music evokes similar emotions and physical sensations across different cultures around the world. This revelation underscores the universal language of music, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries.

The research highlights how music can be felt directly in the body, with catchy tunes prompting an irresistible urge to move in rhythm.

Music's power to activate the autonomic nervous system can lead to physical reactions such as chills. The study demonstrated that music capable of stirring emotions induces similar bodily sensations across various cultures.

"Music that evokes different emotions, like joy, sadness, or fear, is felt in distinct parts of the body. For example, our study found that upbeat and danceable music was felt in the hands and feet, while tender and sad music resonated in the chest area," said Academy Research Fellow Vesa Putkinen.

The emotions and physical sensations triggered by music were consistent among participants from both Western countries and Asia. These bodily sensations were strongly linked to the emotions evoked by the music in the mind.

"Specific acoustic features of music were associated with the same emotions in both Western and Asian contexts. Rhythmically clear music was perceived as joyful and danceable, while dissonant music was associated with aggression. Since these sensations are similar across different cultures, the emotions caused by music are likely independent of culture and learning, rooted in inherited biological mechanisms," explained Professor Lauri Nummenmaa.

"The impact of music on the body is universal. In all cultures, people move to the rhythm of music. It may have evolved in human development to promote social interaction and a sense of belonging by synchronizing listeners' bodies and emotions," Putkinen added.

The study was a collaborative effort with Aalto University and China's UESTC University, conducted online with 1,500 participants from Western and Asian backgrounds evaluating the emotional and physical responses to Western and Asian songs.

Funded by the Academy of Finland, the study's findings were published on January 25, 2023, in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America (PNAS) journal, offering valuable insights into the universal connection between music, emotion, and physical response.