Visual Mental Imagery, Music, and Emotion: From Academic Discourse to Clinical Applications

Liila Taruffi, Mats B. Küssner

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Music has the capability to trigger visual mental imagery (VMI), often leading to constructed imaginative worlds in the mind of the listener. Although VMI has been a topic of interest throughout centuries and across various disciplines including philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, and visual arts, its relationship to musical contexts remains elusive. For example, questions concerning what kind of images are commonly visualized by listeners and how the perception of the acoustical properties is linked to the evoked mental imagery are still unanswered. In this chapter, we discuss two academic debates in more depth. The first one, which was sparked in the 1970s among cognitive psychologists and philosophers, concerns the format of mental images, whether they are propositional (i.e. symbolic or linguistic representations) or depictive (i.e. pictorial representations). The second one is related to recent empirical work in music psychology investigating the relationship between VMI and emotions during music listening. It touches specifically on the association between the qualitative content of thoughts and emotions, their causal and temporal dynamics, and the role of VMI in affect regulation. We close the chapter by discussing some clinical applications that harness the emotional power of music-related VMI and by highlighting possible avenues for future music-based interventions. However, to unlock the full potential of real-world applications, a more thorough understanding of the link between music, emotion, and VMI needs to be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and Mental Imagery
EditorsMats B. Küssner, Liila Taruffi, Georgia A. Floridou
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780429330070
ISBN (Print)9780367352165, 9781032376073
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2022

Publication series

NameSEMPRE Studies in The Psychology of Music


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