Soundtrack design: The impact of music on visual attention and affective responses

Barbara Millet, Juan Chattah, Soyeon Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Through music, film composers attempt to affect the audience's emotions and visual attention; however, little empirical evidence exists characterizing the mechanisms whereby music affects viewers. We conducted a mixed-design experiment with 60 participants to explore the effect of music on viewers' visual attention and affective responses to a film. Music led to quicker first fixations on film objects and supplied emotional content, increasing positive sentiment for the film's story. However, music did not influence viewers' attitudes to filmed events. Within this context, music has limited impact on attitudes toward filmed events but can accentuate the saliency of film objects and supply emotional information altering viewers' sentiment towards the film. Understanding the mechanisms of music's physiological and behavioral effects can inform content delivery strategies. This study offers insights for composition and production of musical soundtracks for feature-length films, advertising videos, educational videos, and video games.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103301
JournalApplied Ergonomics
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Emotional response
  • Eye tracking
  • Film music
  • Physiological measurement
  • Soundtrack
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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