Guide Music and Literature - A Comparison of the Arts

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In the field of cognitive neuroscience, a comparative approach has revealed similar electrophysiological signatures to irregular or unexpected events in the context of music and language Patel, At this point it is worth acknowledging that the necessarily short and highly controlled stimuli that have commonly been used to bring about the signature mismatch responses may seem far removed from the rich and complex literary and musical materials experienced in everyday life. However, these mismatch responses have increasingly been interpreted as support for the Bayesian brain hypothesis, which posits that the brain continuously makes active inferences about how events in the environment will unfold Garrido et al.

Critically, growing investigations into the emotional implications of such predictive processes e. Recently, attempts to characterize the experience of continuously and actively predicting have moved away from emphasizing correlates of incorrect predictions as in the electrophysiological responses described above to emphasizing the state of uncertainty experienced as a given sequence unfolds e. In a recent comprehensive account, the concept of Tension was held to be relevant to music, literature where tension is referred to as suspense , and a range of other activities, and was operationalized as an emotional experience, accompanying continuous prediction making, that arises from a state of uncertainty and need for resolution Lehne and Koelsch, Importantly, feelings of tension in music have also long been related to changes in physiological responses, for instance in response to increased harmonic complexity e.

However, only recently, have the neural correlates of musical tension been directly examined using neuroimaging methods Lehne et al. Indeed, while Koelsch et al. Specifically, it was shown that that continuous subjective ratings of tension as provided by participants, correlated with unfolding activity in left pars orbitalis, an area associated with both predictive and affective processing.

Further, a region-of-interest analysis was able to confirm the role of amygdala in mediating feelings of increasing relative to decreasing tension during music listening Lehne et al. Interestingly, a number of other studies have also been able to indirectly associate subcortical and limbic structures with uncertainty and anticipation in music Salimpoor et al. For instance, Trost et al. Suspense, the concept equivalent to musical tension in its induction of feelings of uncertainty and anticipation Lehne and Koelsch, , is held to constitute a critical component of narrative literature Zillmann, ; Brewer and Lichtenstein, ; Comisky and Bryant, ; Oatley, Further, like musical tension, it has been shown to modulate physiological responses Zillmann et al.

Thus, of considerable interest was whether suspense evoked by literary reading would also activate the limbic and deep subcortical structures associated with musical tension Koelsch et al.

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In a first ever attempt to isolate the neural correlates of suspense that emerges as participants read a literary text for the first time, the authors presented participants with a narrative broken up into numerous shorter segments while their haemodynamic responses were measured Lehne et al. Participants were required to rate each segment, following its presentation, for subjective feelings of suspense.

Consequently a parametric regressor that summarized these ratings across participants was used to identify suspense-associated brain regions. The findings were interesting in implicating areas that have been associated with predictive processing in a range of contexts e. Further, they were interesting in confirming the role, during the reading of literary texts, of brain areas related to mentalising e.

However, in not implicating a role of subcortical limbic structures in literary tension as was seen in musical tension , the study from Lehne et al. It remains possible that any conclusions that may be drawn from the studies reviewed above will be moderated following future research. Indeed an important limitation of the literary tension study from Lehne et al.

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It remains possible that these interruptions compromised the affective power of the narrative stimuli and, consequently, the extent to which limbic structures could be recruited. Indeed, as seen in the research reviewed earlier, several studies have been able to show a link between limbic activity and perceived emotional intensity of literary stimuli Ferstl et al.

Further, there is compelling evidence of the recruitment of limbic regions during the processing of literary stimuli that have been rendered more complex using artistic devices. Here, it is important to point out that in addition to those states of uncertainty that arise from following a plot in the many literary genres that employ suspense e. Defamiliarization is defined as the process whereby a writer makes the familiar unfamiliar and has been shown to reduce the overall predictability of a text, while increasing its perceived esthetic value Miall and Kuiken, ; Hanauer, In a recent imaging study, evidence was sought of a contribution of defamiliarization to the affective and esthetic perception of written words Bohrn et al.

In sum, the research literature provides an ever-increasing body of support for the notion of a role of empathy processes during both music listening and literary reading. It also suggests an important role of predictive processes during the consumption of such stimuli, although of interest will be to explore the extent to which uncertainty in the two domains is bound or not to activity in the core limbic network. In general, it may be concluded that a comparison of research findings from music and literature focused studies will continue to be enlightening, and that particularly important insights will emerge when studies in the two domains use similar concepts.

Critically, it may be expected that while observed overlaps may help to explain the common appeal of music and literature as art forms, differences may help to explain any idiosyncrasies in their respective capacities for affective impact. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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The author thanks Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann and Winfried Menninghaus for their critical reading of earlier drafts of the manuscript. The author is also very grateful to the reviewers for their highly insightful comments and recommendations. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Aug Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

Edited by: McNeel G. Reviewed by: Bradley W.

This article was submitted to Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Mar 9; Accepted Aug 5. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.

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Abstract It has been suggested that music and language had a shared evolutionary precursor before becoming mainly responsible for the communication of emotive and referential meaning respectively. Keywords: music, literature, emotions, esthetic, empathy, theory of mind, tension, active inference.

Introduction The creation, performance, and consumption of music and literary works are preoccupations present in all cultures.


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Predicting the Uncertain In general, both music and language the building blocks of literature are comprised of discrete elements that are not combined haphazardly, but according to a set of principles Patel, Conclusion In sum, the research literature provides an ever-increasing body of support for the notion of a role of empathy processes during both music listening and literary reading.

Conflict of Interest Statement The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. References Altmann U. The power of emotional valence-from cognitive to affective processes in reading. Poetics , Butcher S. Reaction time and musical expectancy.

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Perceiving musical tension in long chord sequences. Old proverbs in new skins—an fMRI study on defamiliarization. Stories are to entertain: a structural-affect theory of stories. Neural correlates of written emotion word processing: a review of recent electrophysiological and hemodynamic neuroimaging studies.

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Published online: 11 Dec Literature, which includes stories, dramas, poetry and prose, disclose the unspoken ideas and impetus of the society. There are many thrilling, suspense, romantic dramas are written that touches our heart. When we talk about dramas, none other than the renowned Shakespear comes into our mind. He has blessed world with so many wonderful dramas and poetry that still people are in The arts painting, music, literature etc.

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