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An Expected Musical Note

A very interesting experiment was conducted by Mireille Besson and associates a decade ago. The team's subjects listened to short pieces of music that were either familiar or sufficiently simple so that a certain note could be expected by the listener before the note was played. In the experiment, such a note was delayed by about half a second and then played, the listener's encephalograms being recorded all the time. Following the moment the delayed note was played, the listener's EEG showed a peak of very much the same height and duration as the peaks in the experiments with words and pictures.  It has been suggested on other pages that if an event matches a memory, pleasure results and separately, if an event matches an expectation, pleasure results. The fact that the EEG shows similar-shaped peaks in both circumstances supports to some extent the idea that the same brain-mechanism acts in both circumstances. Unfortunately, this aspect was only a minor part of the suite of experiments by Besson's team, and it seems to have received little attention by them or anyone else. It is possible that more studies of this type are in progress now (2003), or have already been reported but not yet found by me. As elsewhere, helpful comment would be welcome!


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