Continuous Response Data are measurements of subjects' response to a stimulus sampled every few seconds or milliseconds as the stimulus is presented. These recordings of response are time series which track when and how participants responses change. Since music is naturally presented in time and listeners' responses reportedly change as the piece progresses, continuous response data are an interesting means of exploring how our responses relate to this temporally dynamic stimulus.
In music research, there are three principle types of continuous response data: behavioural data, psychophysiological data, and neurological data. The contents of this wiki focuses on the first two types, as they are more familiar to the author. Behavioural data are all those which require the participant to express their response through some task such as pressing a button when they feel a chill or tracking their emotions on a two dimensional emotion map via an iPod.
Most often, researchers collect one kind of continuous response from many subjects to the same piece of music and under the same listening conditions. These form a collection of continuous responses which aligned in time, making it possible to look for what is common about peoples' responses to the shared stimulus. The flowchart below shows an example of a continuous response to music study: Given a piece of music, described symbolically in a score, the piece is interpreted by performers and presented to a group of listeners who's responses (here both behavioural measures and psychophysiological measures of emotion) are recorded continuously. The resulting collections of continuous responses can then be analysed with respect to any of the experimental factors: musical score, performance, participants, and response measures.
Another important distinction between different kinds of continuous response measures is their focus. Some measures attempt to capture how participants perceive the stimulus, asking for their assessment of the stimulus' loudness, harmonic complexity or the emotion expressed there in. Other measures focus on the participants' experience during the time the stimulus is being presented, measuring the emotions felt or the variation in heart rate. Behavioural measures some times carry the same name despite focusing on different components of the participants experience. The physiological measures discussed here are pressumed to be related to participants experience. It is commonly assumed that for behavioural ratings, participants responses show more agreement on tasks of assessment or perception than can be expected from measures of experience.
Continuous response data is very different from discrete response data more commonly used in perception/cognition research. The tradition of isolating single dimensions of variation in sound and music is essential for learning about basic patterns of listener response, however, it is apparent that human responses to longer and more complex musical stimuli are not easily modeled or described a sum of specific parts such as pitch, timbre, and tempo. Continuous response data reflect the particularities of how we respond to real music, including all the variability of attention, experience, and mood.
Though music researchers have been interested in using continuous response data to investigate how we understand and experience music over the last fifty years, the challenges of making sense of these data have limited our ability to draw conclusions. This wiki is intended to help develop and share better techniques for exploring continuous response data so that we can learn all we can from these complicated traces of our cognitive experience.