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The psychological theory of expectation that David Huron proposes in Sweet Anticipation grew out of the author's experimental efforts to understand how music evokes emotions. These efforts evolved into a general theory of expectation that will prove informative to readers interested in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology as well as those interested in music. The The psychological theory of expectation that David Huron proposes in Sweet Anticipation grew out of the author's experimental efforts to understand how music evokes emotions. These efforts evolved into a general theory of expectation that will prove informative to readers interested in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology as well as those interested in music. The book describes a set of psychological mechanisms and illustrates how these mechanisms work in the case of music. All examples of notated music can be heard on the Web. Huron proposes that emotions evoked by expectation involve five functionally distinct response systems: reaction responses (which engage defensive reflexes); tension responses (where uncertainty leads to stress); prediction responses (which reward accurate prediction); imagination responses (which facilitate deferred gratification); and appraisal responses (which occur after conscious thought is engaged). For real-world events, these five response systems typically produce a complex mixture of feelings. The book identifies some of the aesthetic possibilities afforded by expectation, and shows how common musical devices (such as syncopation, cadence, meter, tonality, and climax) exploit the psychological opportunities. The theory also provides new insights into the physiological psychology of awe, laughter, and spine-tingling chills. Huron traces the psychology of expectations from the patterns of the physical/cultural world through imperfectly learned heuristics used to predict that world to the phenomenal qualia we experienced as we apprehend the world.


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The psychological theory of expectation that David Huron proposes in Sweet Anticipation grew out of the author's experimental efforts to understand how music evokes emotions. These efforts evolved into a general theory of expectation that will prove informative to readers interested in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology as well as those interested in music. The The psychological theory of expectation that David Huron proposes in Sweet Anticipation grew out of the author's experimental efforts to understand how music evokes emotions. These efforts evolved into a general theory of expectation that will prove informative to readers interested in cognitive science and evolutionary psychology as well as those interested in music. The book describes a set of psychological mechanisms and illustrates how these mechanisms work in the case of music. All examples of notated music can be heard on the Web. Huron proposes that emotions evoked by expectation involve five functionally distinct response systems: reaction responses (which engage defensive reflexes); tension responses (where uncertainty leads to stress); prediction responses (which reward accurate prediction); imagination responses (which facilitate deferred gratification); and appraisal responses (which occur after conscious thought is engaged). For real-world events, these five response systems typically produce a complex mixture of feelings. The book identifies some of the aesthetic possibilities afforded by expectation, and shows how common musical devices (such as syncopation, cadence, meter, tonality, and climax) exploit the psychological opportunities. The theory also provides new insights into the physiological psychology of awe, laughter, and spine-tingling chills. Huron traces the psychology of expectations from the patterns of the physical/cultural world through imperfectly learned heuristics used to predict that world to the phenomenal qualia we experienced as we apprehend the world.

30 review for Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mikael Lind

    In Sweet Anticipation, David Huron makes an admirable attempt to explain some psychological phenomena that underlie our perception of music. Why do we like some repetition but not too much of it? Why do certain passages startle us, give us goosebumps, make us laugh, and so on? Huron provides very interesting and, actually, pretty credible explanations based on recent studies in psychology and evolutionary theories. Yes, Huron does have one foot in evolutionary psychology, but he's not another Pin In Sweet Anticipation, David Huron makes an admirable attempt to explain some psychological phenomena that underlie our perception of music. Why do we like some repetition but not too much of it? Why do certain passages startle us, give us goosebumps, make us laugh, and so on? Huron provides very interesting and, actually, pretty credible explanations based on recent studies in psychology and evolutionary theories. Yes, Huron does have one foot in evolutionary psychology, but he's not another Pinker or Levitin - he's much more nuanced than them. He also draws on some research in sociology, linguistics and philosophy, and even though this book is only a start in a very complicated field, Huron has given us a milestone from which to build further. Huron is also very cautious not to make too strong aesthetic judgments from his findings, and his study of Schoenberg is both interesting and balanced; basically, he's telling us why the music is difficult at first, but also why should be possible with some training to come to appreciate the contra-tonal (rather than atonal) style. Despite a couple of less interesting chapters in the middle of the book, this was a rewarding journey and I will keep using this book in my own research for a long time to follow. If you're interested in music theory and/or psychology, get this book!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tomas Serrien

    This is an important and interesting research. 5 stars if Huron makes a more compact edition with less repetitions.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Hodge

    This is an outstanding piece of musical scholarship, but also really important if you're in my line of work. I first heard about David Huron's work a decade ago, when I read that he had done experiments that proved that audiences hated Schoenberg's music because it was harder to follow than random music. I finally bought his book about four years ago and only now - which shows the speed of my reading pile - am I getting around to reading it. I should have done it a lot earlier! But better late t This is an outstanding piece of musical scholarship, but also really important if you're in my line of work. I first heard about David Huron's work a decade ago, when I read that he had done experiments that proved that audiences hated Schoenberg's music because it was harder to follow than random music. I finally bought his book about four years ago and only now - which shows the speed of my reading pile - am I getting around to reading it. I should have done it a lot earlier! But better late than never. The book is longish, with some complex ideas (but certainly not incomprehensible, as long as you have some knowledge of how music works). But Huron's central thesis is this - that one of the fundamental things that makes music "work" is the way it plays with our (often subconscious) sense of expectation. In other words, over time, we acquire an instinctive knowledge of how music should sound - what note should come next, where the next beat will land, what is the next chord we're about to hear, etc. Part of this internal expectation will be acquired from a lifetime of listening. But there might also be elements acquired from study as well. Whatever its origin, we carry a set of statistics in our brains so that any time we hear a piece of music, we're trying to predict what will happen next in it. Huron's fascinating idea is that the reason we think certain notes, chords and phrases sound attractive is actually because they land where our brains statistically think they should. So consciously we think the music sounds "nice". But really it was the happy vibes of our brain congratulating us on an accurate prediction. The term for that is "misappropriation" where your brain attaches the stimulus from a prediction response to the thing itself. In this case, the notes. Huron then introduces the concept of surprise - and how pleasant surprises are so much better than just having positive expectations that are met. (Likewise, negative surprises are a lot worse than simply expecting a negative outcome and having it met.) So you know when you're listening to a piece of music, you're expecting a big moment and then it's even better than you expected? That's part of the prediction effect. I've not heard too many other people reference this research, but I think Huron's theory is groundbreaking because it actually explains what has happened with classical music over the last 50 years and why the audience has died out. (He doesn't actually explain this explicitly but his theory backs this up.) In other words, 100 years ago, an audience would know a bunch of music theory and this would allow them to accurately predict and enjoy most classical music. Thus the artform was growing and composers could be more adventurous. 50 years ago, the situation was slightly different. With the advent of the gramophone, a whole bunch of people were able to develop expectations, not by learning music theory, but by playing a piece on repeat until it stuck in their brain! However, as you can imagine, if you suddenly hear a piece that's not one of the ones you had on high rotation, then you would expect not to like it as much. And if, say, 99% of your listening was taken up with very tonal works of, say, Mozart and Beethoven, imagine what you're going to do when you encounter the music of Arnold Schoenberg? (His chapter on modernism has some great stuff on this and describes how Wagner, Schoenberg and Stravinsky were all working to confound our sense of expectation.) So this is a fantastic explanation of why we see the common phenomenon of the "conservative audiences" at classical music organisations who seem very wary of the organisation presenting "modern music". It also throws down the challenge - in this current day, where it's not at all likely that many people are still familiar with the forms and structures of classical music and it's even less clear whether many people are listening to complete classical works on endless repeat - what might we need to do to help the audience predict more easily what this music will do? If this is true, it's not just enough to get potential new audiences in the concert hall and hope the music will speak for itself. I think we need to work out how to give them mental tools that will make processing the music a more easy task. Much food for thought, and I hope this research comes to be discussed widely in the classical music world.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jindřich Mynarz

    This is a very long read. The author meticulously builds an argument that music perception and appraisal is fundamentally based on statistical learning from previously heard music. The result is exhaustive in all senses of the word.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Luiz Roveran

    Trata-se de uma leitura densa, fato potencializado por se tratar de um livro teórico em língua estrangeira — de fato, não sei se foi traduzido. De qualquer forma, Huron nos provê com uma intersecção entre a cognição e a análise musical que até hoje se mostra espinhosa: justamente porque esse diálogo ainda é polêmico em ambos campos. Sua argumentação, repleta de revisão do estado da arte, propõe modelos de escuta musical baseados em expectativa. Apesar de denso, o texto é acessível ao leitor com al Trata-se de uma leitura densa, fato potencializado por se tratar de um livro teórico em língua estrangeira — de fato, não sei se foi traduzido. De qualquer forma, Huron nos provê com uma intersecção entre a cognição e a análise musical que até hoje se mostra espinhosa: justamente porque esse diálogo ainda é polêmico em ambos campos. Sua argumentação, repleta de revisão do estado da arte, propõe modelos de escuta musical baseados em expectativa. Apesar de denso, o texto é acessível ao leitor com alguma base musical. É uma leitura essencial a qualquer pessoa interessada em cognição musical, computação afetiva e áreas correlatas.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Maddox

    I expect nothing in my life if I don’t participate! If I expect something in my life is my people or memories. So let’s expand. This book suggests that music simulates but what if you expect something sweet and good. Music makes you dreamfull. So this book is for musicians to make people dream. Let’s see the future of the industry.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Such a good boook!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    i've been reading this book for almost 3 months, and although i hit some rough/annoying spots, in the end it was all worth it. david huron generally asks the questions: how does music work? and how do minds hear music working? he has done everything from statistical frequency analysis of certain pitches in music (relating this to the pitch or interval qualia we assign to it) to studying the relationship between composer's goals and our interpretations of those goals (e.g. the observation that Sch i've been reading this book for almost 3 months, and although i hit some rough/annoying spots, in the end it was all worth it. david huron generally asks the questions: how does music work? and how do minds hear music working? he has done everything from statistical frequency analysis of certain pitches in music (relating this to the pitch or interval qualia we assign to it) to studying the relationship between composer's goals and our interpretations of those goals (e.g. the observation that Schoenberg might have been contratonal rather than atonal - he was explicitly avoiding tonality!). his most important contribution in this text is his ITPRA theory of expectation, which covers five stages of pre- and post-outcome responses to stimuli. first is imagination, then tension build-up during pre-outcome, then prediction (where we evaluate whether our predictions were correct), reaction (immediate, visceral, automatic), and appraisal (evaluation of events/stimuli). he relates this series of emotional states to a surprise party, and throughout the text he relates these to musical stimuli (melodies, harmonic progressions, rhythms, and some pieces). another wonderful contribution huron provides is this idea that research can be brought together from different domains to support the one question that we're all interested in: how does music work its magic? during the last chapter, i saw fireworks... no lie. :) i do have a few questions, though. when we have so many assumptions built up for each of these domains within music (education, cognition, musicology, theory, etc), how do we break down those assumptions to come to common ground? we have to do something like this before we start working together, right? or else we'll just have some sort of chaotic result. furthermore, how can we possibly account for these stages in anticipation if we can't explicitly describe our expectations? often i'm just not expecting anything when i listen to music, but i can tell you if i'm impressed or surprised after the fact. if we're always interpreting our experiences in retrograde fashion, how is this helping our theory that we "expect" things to occur? overall, wonderful text. it's freakin' lengthy. there, i said it. but you'll get through it and love it in the end! <3

  9. 4 out of 5

    Arnie Cox

    Excellent balance of empirical data and philosophical considerations. (I don't happen to resonate with the title and the dust jacket, but this is a good example of a book not to be judged by its cover.) Empirically-based writing seldom reaches very far into larger questions of musical meaning, while at the same time philosophically-oriented writing seldom troubles itself with empirical data. This is the best combination of the two that I have read, balancing at about 2/3 empirical and 1/3 philos Excellent balance of empirical data and philosophical considerations. (I don't happen to resonate with the title and the dust jacket, but this is a good example of a book not to be judged by its cover.) Empirically-based writing seldom reaches very far into larger questions of musical meaning, while at the same time philosophically-oriented writing seldom troubles itself with empirical data. This is the best combination of the two that I have read, balancing at about 2/3 empirical and 1/3 philosophical. Huron limits his topic to anticipation and expectation, which is responsible but ultimately a little disappointing. I suspect that he has at least one subsequent volume planned, in which he might explore the implications further. For example, while he does discuss surprise and humor - and impressively done, I thought - he says little about desire, which would open the door to a powerful discussion of affect, not only in the teleology of tonal music but also in the post-tonal world. It's because I found this such a salient truncation that I suspect that he is writing a related book as sequel. He also did not discuss the relationship between anticipation/expectation and the conceptualization of temporal motion - after Augustine, Husserl, and Lakoff & Johnson - and its cousin, or offspring, musical motion. But these limitations are not necessarily faults. There is so much useful information, tied to actual music, that I highly recommend it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Huron is a musicologist at Ohio State, and also heads the Cognitive and Systematic Musicology Laboratory at that school. This book draws heavily on the work he has done there. In it, Huron explores how music works from a cognitive perspective, focusing on how the mechanisms of expectation affect how we experience music. Despite being rather technical, Sweet Anticipation is a fascinating read. It encompasses both psychology and music theory, explaining the biological and cognitive workings of exp Huron is a musicologist at Ohio State, and also heads the Cognitive and Systematic Musicology Laboratory at that school. This book draws heavily on the work he has done there. In it, Huron explores how music works from a cognitive perspective, focusing on how the mechanisms of expectation affect how we experience music. Despite being rather technical, Sweet Anticipation is a fascinating read. It encompasses both psychology and music theory, explaining the biological and cognitive workings of expectation and then showing how music engages them. It's a quite different view than the one composers and other musicians are given during their educations, but it makes a lot of sense and often adds to what we learn in theory classes. However, Sweet Anticipation is not an instruction manual - it does not try to add to the toolbox, as it were. It is more concerned with shedding light on existing music than with affecting music yet to be written. Nonetheless, as a composer and performer, I found Huron's approach very interesting and enlightening.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This book is for the serious student of psycho-acoustics. While accessibly written, the reader must be willing to plunge headlong into a lot of technical vocabulary to wade through what the book has to offer. Huron's goals are large and complex: he wants to understand the mechanisms of human consciousness that make us enjoy listening to music. He considers many of the key aspects of Western music (rhythms, cadence, textures, etc.) as key aspects of this process. The short answer here is that we This book is for the serious student of psycho-acoustics. While accessibly written, the reader must be willing to plunge headlong into a lot of technical vocabulary to wade through what the book has to offer. Huron's goals are large and complex: he wants to understand the mechanisms of human consciousness that make us enjoy listening to music. He considers many of the key aspects of Western music (rhythms, cadence, textures, etc.) as key aspects of this process. The short answer here is that we are pattern-recognition animals, and once exposed to certain kinds of patterns, learn to anticipate what might happen next. How those expectations are either fulfilled or confounded is crucial to how we respond to music. Needless to say, it's impossible to sum up 400 pages of tightly argued analysis in a couple of sentences, but the average music lover seeking to better understand music should know that this book is seriously geeky...which will, in some cases, be exactly what people are looking for.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Reading chapters 1-6, 9 and most of chapter 10, I think that the book is clearly written (as everything else I read by this author) and survey the field in an interesting and approachable manner. On the other hand, Huron's ITPRA theory, although make a lot of sense, is not directly measured / "perceptualy proofed" in the book. The author usually use the results of several researchers to explain how they support the theory, but it doesn't seems that there could be evidence to reject the theory, w Reading chapters 1-6, 9 and most of chapter 10, I think that the book is clearly written (as everything else I read by this author) and survey the field in an interesting and approachable manner. On the other hand, Huron's ITPRA theory, although make a lot of sense, is not directly measured / "perceptualy proofed" in the book. The author usually use the results of several researchers to explain how they support the theory, but it doesn't seems that there could be evidence to reject the theory, which is quiet problematic. Overall, it is well worth reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Έκτος από κάποια κεφάλαια που ο συγγραφέας πραγματικά εξηγεί τους μηχανισμούς της προσμονής και της έκπληξης στην μουσική και όχι μόνο, ένα μεγάλο μέρος του βιβλίου αποτελείται από εκθέσεις αποτελεσμάτων μουσικών στατιστικών πειραμάτων και αυτό το καθιστά βαρετό σε σημεία. Ορισμένα εδάφια έχουν πραγματικό ενδιαφέρον και μαζί με κάποιες άλλες διάσπαρτες πληροφορίες αποτελούν τον λόγο για τον οποίο θα ήθελε κάποιος μουσικός να διαβάσει το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο. Στα τελευταία κεφάλαια γίνεται πλήρως Έκτος από κάποια κεφάλαια που ο συγγραφέας πραγματικά εξηγεί τους μηχανισμούς της προσμονής και της έκπληξης στην μουσική και όχι μόνο, ένα μεγάλο μέρος του βιβλίου αποτελείται από εκθέσεις αποτελεσμάτων μουσικών στατιστικών πειραμάτων και αυτό το καθιστά βαρετό σε σημεία. Ορισμένα εδάφια έχουν πραγματικό ενδιαφέρον και μαζί με κάποιες άλλες διάσπαρτες πληροφορίες αποτελούν τον λόγο για τον οποίο θα ήθελε κάποιος μουσικός να διαβάσει το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο. Στα τελευταία κεφάλαια γίνεται πλήρως αντιληπτή η ιδέα που θέλει να μεταδώσει ο συγγραφέας.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie Lubkowski

    This psychological study of how expectations are created and experienced in music held amazing insights into the field of music analysis, and something too for musical creation. It's definitely not meant to be a tool box for composers, as it looks looks only at what currently exists in music. But there are some great statistical studies on the common properties of Western music, as well as fascinating experiments with listeners. This psychological study of how expectations are created and experienced in music held amazing insights into the field of music analysis, and something too for musical creation. It's definitely not meant to be a tool box for composers, as it looks looks only at what currently exists in music. But there are some great statistical studies on the common properties of Western music, as well as fascinating experiments with listeners.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Work-related reading. Definitely provocative and well-thought out. Although I wonder if everything we do, all our emotions and anticipations about the future, really come down to statistics. It kind of takes the magic out to know that we are responding in a certain way just because 99% of the time a particular feature is followed by a particular other feature.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jayme

    While there are a lot of studies with lots of statistics, the rest of it is very readable and interesting. I particularly enjoyed his insight into musical surprise and what about music that can make people laugh.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid Fetell

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hakeem

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marcy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Painless

  22. 5 out of 5

    Khalil

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lyle

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Forstall

  26. 4 out of 5

    James

  27. 4 out of 5

    Les Harper

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jess Narum

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

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