Surprisal, Liking, and Musical Affect

  • Noah R. FramEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11502)


Formulation and processing of expectation has long been viewed as an essential component of the emotional, psychological, and neurological response to musical events. There are multiple theories of musical expectation, ranging from a broad association between expectation violation and musical affect to precise descriptions of neurocognitive networks that contribute to the perception of surprising stimuli. In this paper, we propose a probabilistic model of musical expectation that relies on the recursive updating of listeners’ conditional predictions of future events in the musical stream. This model is defined in terms of cross-entropy, or information content given a prior model. A probabilistic program implementing some aspects of this model with melodies from Bach chorales is shown to support the hypothesized connection between the evolution of surprisal through a piece and affective arousal, indexed by the spread of possible deviations from the expected play count.


Affect Entropy Music Perception Probabilistic programming Surprisal 



My thanks to Noah Goodman, Ben Peloquin, Robert Hawkins, Malcolm Slaney, and Jonathan Berger for their assistance in the development and implementation of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CCRMAStanfordUSA

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