Ive randomly thought about a vague idea that perhaps the satisfaction I experience when listening to music is due to my brain correctly predicting a next sound in a sequence.

Do you think that has any theoretical truth to it? If so, what do you think an evolutionary reason to feel satisfaction after predicting a sound?

Another observation is that listening to unfamiliar music, for example a classical music sequence, is not satisfying to me. I'm not sure if I can appreciate its beauty that so many people see. What about that?

I'm not sure if that's the right place bu I just wanted to share my thoughts. Is there any interesting writing on that? I'm also not sure which tags to use-please feel free to categorise my question or point me to another forum for discussion. Thanks!


1 Answer 1


That's pretty much the core argument of "On the joys of perceiving: Affect as feedback for perceptual predictions" (2015) Chetverikov & Kristjánsson. It's a fun read, I think you might enjoy it.

Obviously music and other arts pull a bunch of other affect levers as well, not just this one. And "correct predictions" might not be the best way to characterize this particular lever: maybe the pleasure comes from being predictive rather then predictable cf. Braem, Senne, and Trapp (2019) "Humans show a higher preference for stimuli that are predictive relative to those that are predictable." Familiarity with a music style confounds the two, they both go up as you get a feel for the style. There's obviously something going on with curiosity/exploration/novelty also being pleasurable, but I don't think it's clear yet if you get that 'for free' with the predictive account or if an intrinsic reward for exploration should be its own thing.

Anyway, long story short there's some literature that looks a lot like your 'random vague idea', it's incomplete ongoing work, but it sure looks like it might be going somewhere interesting. Enjoy!


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.