Melodic-Expectation Rules as Learned Heuristics
Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Sydney 2002 C. Stevens, D. Burnham, G. McPherson, E. Schubert, J. Renwich (Eds.). Adelaide: Causal Productions
4 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2015 Last revised: 22 Feb 2016
Date Written: May 6, 2002
Evidence is presented that certain rules of melodic expectation are learned rather than innate. In an experiment, 28 trained musicians and 12 non-musicians were asked to predict the direction of controlled experimental melodies. Whereas the musicians’ expectations fit two well-known rules, the rules were not evident in the expectancies of non-musicians. Moreover, the rules corresponded only approximately to melodic structure, not unlike the heuristics that people use to make predictions in other cognitive domains. In sum, the results suggest that musicians have learned imperfect but serviceable heuristics for making predictions in their area of expertise.
Keywords: music, expectation, cognition, learning
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