In and out of tune: The effects of musical (in)congruence on translation
Beatriz Naranjo and Ana María Rojo López
Universidad de Murcia
This study explores the potential effects of musical congruence and incongruence on translation quality and
creativity. An experiment was carried out in which participants translated excerpts from happy and sad narratives while they
listened to source-text congruent and incongruent soundtracks. Statistical analyses were performed to compare translation
performance under three different sound conditions: musical congruence, musical incongruence, and silence. The results reveal a
positive influence of congruent musical stimuli on translation creativity. Correlations are also found between levels of empathy
and creativity, suggesting that an increase in translation creativity under the effects of music could be mediated by reported
high levels of empathy under the musical congruence condition.
The impact of music-listening on the human mind and body has been widely explored in various disciplines. Whether the presence of music can help or hamper performance in different types of tasks has been one of the core issues in the field of the psychology of music. Some scholars, such as Kämpfe, Sedlmeier, and Renkewitz (2011), have attempted to answer this question – without much success. Their analysis of existing findings on the effect of music on different activities points to inconsistent and contradictory outcomes, and they conclude that the global effect of background music may be null. Rather than envisaging the effect of music on task performance as an exclusive dichotomy (being either positive or negative), it may be more enlightening to explore the hows and wheres of the effect of music (i.e., what type of music and in what type of context). In fact, as Kämpfe, Sedlmeier, and Renkewitz (2011) concede, the “null effect” (14) of music is most likely to result from the heterogeneity of the variables analyzed and the lack of methodological systematicity found among all the studies they examined.
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