The human brain is able to reproduce the continuation of a melody cut off in the middle by analyzing the rhythm and tempo of the part already heard. Such conclusions were reached by scientists from the largest in Denmark Aarhus University. The results of their experiments are published on the scientific portal Association for Psychological Science.
"The brain is constantly one step ahead and compares our expectations with what is about to happen," explained co-lead author Niels Hansen.
The study looked at how the brain works in those moments when it determines where one thing ends and something else begins. Scientists decided to experiment with recognizing individual musical phrases in the midst of melodies.
University staff asked 38 people to listen to Bach's works. Participants could pause and resume music on the computer. At the same time, the subjects were warned that after listening, they would pass a test for their knowledge of melodies. The researchers timed the time during which the listeners lingered on each phrase.
In another experiment, participants listened to the same pieces of music and then rated how complete they sounded. It turned out that listeners lingered longer on tunes that ended up with more uncertainty.
"We were able to show that people tend to perceive 'unfinished music' as the end of musical thought. Our research will allow us to better understand how the human brain acquires new knowledge about language or movements," the article says.
People read the statistical information of the surrounding world not only to predict what might happen next, but also to parse the streams of complex, continuous information into smaller, more understandable segments, the university staff concluded.