Dynamics and disturbances of scaffolded emotion regulation in musical absorption and schizophrenia (Joel Krueger, University of Exter)

Abstract: In everyday life, we manipulate our material environment — the things and space around us, including artifacts we use to produce and consume music — to manipulate our emotions. These things and spaces play an ineliminable role in shaping what we feel and how we feel it; when we interact with them, they contribute ongoing feedback that “scaffolds” the character and temporal development of our emotional experiences. However, in some psychopathological conditions like schizophrenia, the ability to reliably access these things and spaces is disturbed, and the stability and organization of the individual’s emotional life are compromised. In this talk, I consider what the phenomenology of scaffolded emotion regulation in musical absorption can tell us about the character of emotional disturbances in schizophrenia. Focusing on music listening, I argue that the feeling of absorption in “strong experiences with music”, as Gabrielsson terms them, stems from a felt sense of diminished agency and self-regulative control as we allow musical dynamics to scaffold the diachronic articulation of our emotions from one moment to the next. This “letting go” character is central to the aesthetic pleasure we take from such experiences. After unpacking different aspects of this phenomenology, I turn to schizophrenia. I show how a diminished sense of agency and self-regulative control are central to the schizophrenic individual’s disturbed relationship with their material environment, and I consider why, in this case, these features are not a source of aesthetic pleasure but rather emotional distress and instability. I conclude by discussing music therapy and schizophrenia, and especially why strong experiences with music in a therapeutic setting may help individuals with schizophrenia become more attuned to their bodies, deepen their sense of agency, and feel more connected with their social and material environments.

Bio: Joel Krueger is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Exeter. He works on various issues in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of cognitive science, including emotions, social cognition, and psychopathology. He also does some work on comparative philosophy and philosophy of music.

Published Oct. 10, 2019 11:12 AM - Last modified Oct. 10, 2019 11:12 AM