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Spiking the expectancy profiles: Modelling short- and long-term statistical learning of music as a process of predictive entropy reduction

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterResearchpeer-review

  • Niels Chr. Hansen
  • Psyche Loui, Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience and Behavior, Wesleyan University, United States
  • Peter Vuust
  • Marcus Pearce, Centre for Digital Music and Centre for Research in Psychology, Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom
Melodic expectations are generated with different degrees of certainty. Given distributions of expectedness ratings for multiple continuations of each context, as obtained with the probe-tone paradigm, this certainty can be quantified in terms of Shannon entropy. Because expectations arise from statistical learning, causing comparatively sharper key profiles in musicians, we hypothesised that musical learning can be modelled as a process of entropy reduction through experience. Specifically, implicit learning of statistical regularities allows reduction in the relative entropy (i.e. symmetrised Kullback-Leibler or Jensen-Shannon Divergence) between listeners’ prior expectancy profiles and probability distributions of a musical style or of stimuli used in short-term experiments.
Five previous probe-tone experiments with musicians and non-musicians were revisited. In Experiments 1-2 participants rated tonal melodies and Charlie Parker solos. Experiments 3-5 tested participants before and after 25-30 min exposure to 5, 15 or 400 melodies generated from a finite-state grammar using the Bohlen-Pierce scale.

As predicted, we found between-participant differences in entropy corresponding to degree and relevance of musical training and within-participant decreases after short-term exposure to novel music. Thus, whereas inexperienced listeners make high-entropy predictions, statistical learning over varying timescales enables listeners to generate melodic expectations with reduced entropy
Original languageEnglish
Publication year8 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2014
EventMilestones in Music Cognition - McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Duration: 7 Jul 20148 Jul 2014


ConferenceMilestones in Music Cognition
LocationMcGill University

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