Statistical Learning and Expectation Evoked Emotion (with David Huron)
It has been shown that listeners internalize statistical properties of music, such as how frequently certain chords are used. We have been examining whether certain emotional responses to raag music can be traced to pitch statistics such as frequency of usage and conditional frequency of usage (i.e. how often one note follows another). We have also begun examining the role that micro-pitch structure such as pitch glides and ornaments play in evoking emotion.
Because there are many correlated features in real music, we are also designing experiments using "artificial" music systems. This has two advantages: we are able to precisely control what musical parameter is varied, and we are able to control the exposure of subjects to the artificial style. We are using this paradigm to explore the age-old question of why minor keys sound "sad".