I have been studying musical "tension." Musical tension essentially refers to the "expectations" one builds up in a melody that are then "released" when a stimulus matching the expectation occurs. For example, if you play the white notes on a piano in order CDEFGAB, you have a "tension" that motivates you to finish the scale and play C to complete the pattern.

I am aware pattern completion occurs in the brain and have seen a few biological models of this. For example, with attractor network models of human memory. So I am not surprised obviously that pattern completion occurs. But this example with musical tension highlights how there is an emotion (aka drive or motivation) that compels me to complete the pattern. When I hear the sequence CDEFGAB, I am compelled to finish the sequence.

My Question

Can someone provide me of examples of canonical models of emotions influence on pattern completion? I would like to learn example mechanisms as to how, on a circuit level, emotion would influence pattern completion. I am particularly interested in examples relating to common forms of human creativity like visual art, problem-solving, etc., but any examples will do.

  • $\begingroup$ There's likely not a specific "emotion," but the "tension" you refer to sounds like negative affect, and affective feelings are inherently motivational. Why exactly you feel compelled to complete a pattern can be answered by theories like predictive coding. $\endgroup$
    – mrt
    May 24, 2017 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


Canonical models of emotions in relation to pattern comclusion can not be provided.

The emotional of the musical sequences completion are directly related to the tonality.

Emotions related to the tonality are presented in the semantic memory.

It is possible the study of a partial mapping that relates tonality and emotions.

The best text, in my opinion, is: Sloboda, John, A. (1985). The Musical Mind: The Cognitive Psychology of Music. This is a compilation of numerous research in this area, others very interesting books can be found of this author.


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