Expectancies generated by recent exposure to melodic sequences

W. F. Thompson, L. L. Balkwill, R. Vernescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In four experiments, we examined the effects of exposure to unfamiliar tone sequences on melodic expectancy and memory. In Experiment 1, 30 unfamiliar tone sequences (target sequences) were presented to listeners three times each in random order (exposure phase), and listeners recorded the number of notes in each sequence. Listeners were then presented target and novel sequences and rated how well the final note continued the pattern of notes that preceded it. Novel sequences were identical to target sequences, except for the final note. Ratings were significantly higher for target sequences than for novel sequences, illustrating the influence of exposure on melodic expectancy. Experiment 2 confirmed that without exposure to target sequences, ratings were equivalent for target and novel sequences. In Experiment 3, new listeners were assessed for explicit memory for target sequences following the exposure phase. Recognition of target sequences was above chance, but unrelated to expectancy judgments in Experiment 1. Experiment 4 replicated the exposure effect, using a modified experiment design, and confirmed that the effect is not dependent on explicit memory for sequences. We discuss the idea that melodic expectancies are influenced by implicit memory for recently heard melodic patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-555
Number of pages9
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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