Effects of training and melodic features on mode perception
The two modes most widely used in Western music today convey opposite moods—a distinction that nonmusicians and even young children are able to make. However, the current studies provide evidence that, despite a strong link between mode and affect, mode perception is problematic. Nonmusicians found mode discrimination to be harder than discrimination of other melodic features, and they were not able to accurately classify major and minor melodies with these labels. Although nonmusicians were able to classify major and minor melodies using affective labels, they performed at chance in mode discrimination. Training, in the form of short lessons given to nonmusicians and the natural musical experience of musicians, improved performance, but not to ceiling levels. Tunes with high note density were classified as major, and tunes with low note density as minor, even though these features were actually unrelated in the experimental material. Although these findings provide support for the importance of mode in the perception of emotion, they clearly indicate that these mode perceptions are inaccurate, even in trained individuals, without the assistance of affective labeling.
Leaver, A.M. and Halpern, Andrea. "Effects of training and melodic features on mode perception." Music Perception 22, no. 1 (2004) : 117-143.