Regulating functional and hedonic emotions in the pursuit of musical practice goals

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Individuals can regulate their emotions in order to feel better and avoid feeling worse. However, individuals can also regulate emotions if doing so is believed to be beneficial to the pursuit of a goal. When pursuing a long-term goal, an individual may choose to delay immediate hedonic emotional reward in order to maximize the functional influence of emotions. This study investigates emotion regulation in the context of musical practice. We examine whether musicians adopt specific emotional stances which support their goal orientation, and which are in line with their beliefs about the functional influence of emotions. Via an online questionnaire, musicians (N = 421) reported their goals, meta-emotion beliefs, and emotion regulation behaviour. Musicians used affect-improvement strategies in their practice more often than affect-worsening strategies. Greater use of affect-worsening strategies was associated with stronger support for the utility of unpleasant emotions. Musicians who more strongly endorsed this belief more strongly pursed mastery goals than enjoyment goals. An examination of specific regulated emotions to support musical practice indicated that musicians generally sought to reduce unpleasant emotions, instead preferring pleasant, energizing emotions. However, a subgroup of mastery-oriented musicians may seek a mixed emotional state, increasing anger and nervousness alongside a range of pleasant emotions. Musicians who pursue mastery may be motivated to experience emotions that combine functional and hedonic benefits. Functional emotions may be less relevant for musicians who practice for enjoyment. Research in this field may equip musicians with novel skills for better pursuit of their practice goals.



musical practice, emotion regulation, meta-emotion beliefs, practice goals


Future Directions of Music Cognition (2021), pp. 109-113