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Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation

Sweet Anticipation Music and the Psychology of Expectation by David Huron

Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation

David Huron

Description

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.
A richly detailed theory of how and why the audience has particular expectations and emotions…. A fascinating journey into the inner workings of music and how it tickles the human mind.
       — Petr Janata, Nature
Sweet Anticipation… in its range, rigour and insights constitutes an astonishing achievement. Although it announces itself as a book about expectation in music, it goes well beyond what that might imply and is more like a broad and encompassing theory of music perception and cognition, with expectation as the central concept.
       — Prof. Eric Clarke, Music Analysis

Review

5/5

Sweet Anticipation is an approachable book on many aspects of music cognition research and results suitable to anyone interested in how our my minds interact with music. 

Huron begins Sweet Anticipation with a thorough literature review and explanation of research methods in the topic of music cognition, specifically with how researchers test hypotheses about expectation and emotion. From there, he delves into explaining the process of expectation: how humans constantly create mental predictions and how these predictions change and create emotions like surprise, happiness, joy, fear, etc. in music listeners. 

The entire book is organized well for readers new to the topic and functions well as a resource to return to. Huron’s style of writing is approachable and conversational, one of the most approachable writers in the music theory and cognition fields. Finally, the content is unmatched. Sweet Anticipation greatly influenced the fields of both music theory and music cognition.

I rate Sweet Anticipation 5 out of 5 stars for its approachability, organization, and content. It’s perfect for anyone interested in expectation and emotion in music.

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