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Movie Music and Theory of Mind

Flickr Creative Commons / anyjazz65Movie music can have a huge impact on our perception of a film. Ever since the days of “silent” movies, filmmakers have recognized that music enhances the movie-going experience.

The earliest movies were shown in halls with live accompanists playing pianos and organs. Some films were even accompanied with full live orchestras. Why would movie companies go to such expense, if not to make viewers enjoy the film more?

Movies like “Jaws” in 1975 incited terror in their audiences simply by playing scary music while showing pictures of empty ocean.¬†Marilyn Boltz has found that music can actually affect viewers’ memory of movie scenes: Depending on what music is played, viewers will “remember” seeing different objects — in some cases objects that weren’t even present in the scene.

A team led by Berthold Hoeckner wanted to know if movie music also affects how we perceive others’ thoughts. While there is a lot of research confirming that music can affect our perception of characters’ emotions, there has been much less study of theory of mind.

Movie Music and Theory of Mind

Dave and Greta Munger

Greta Munger is a professor of psychology at Davidson College. Dave Munger is a writer and editor. They have been writing about psychology online since 2005, at numerous sites including,, and

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APA Reference
Munger, D. (2018). Movie Music and Theory of Mind. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Sep 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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