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Long-term melodic expectation: The unexpected observation of distant priming effects

Bailes, Freya; Delbe, Charles; Delbé, Charles


Freya Bailes

Charles Delbe

Charles Delbé


This report provides a brief account of an experiment whose control conditions produced interestingly counter-intuitive results. The method adapted priming techniques to explore whether imagining well-known melodies would facilitate perceptual discrimination of congruent compared to incongruent melodic continuations in a syllable identification task. This was shown to be the case, but in a subsequent control experiment, imagining an irrelevant lure melody also showed a priming effect. The persistent priming effect apparently related the target sequence to the aurally presented, nonadjacent opening notes, and not to the intervening mental image. A number of statistical analyses of the pitch relationships in match and mismatch targets were performed and a further experiment is reported in which participants explicitly selected between match and mismatch versions of the stimuli for fit within the prime context. It seems that the pitch proximity of the first target note to the final note of the sounded prime may be responsible for the priming effect. An outline of further research to explain the phenomenon is suggested, including experiments to test the strength of melodic priming governed by pitch proximity, by systematically varying the length of the period between prime and target. © 2009 by ESCOM European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music.


Bailes, F., Delbe, C., & Delbé, C. (2009). Long-term melodic expectation: The unexpected observation of distant priming effects. Musicae Scientiae, 13(2), 315-336.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2009
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Musicae Scientiae
Print ISSN 1029-8649
Electronic ISSN 2045-4147
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 2
Pages 315-336
Keywords Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Music
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Nov 13, 2014