Feeling the Beat: Temporal Predictability is Associated with Ongoing Changes in Music-Induced Pleasantness

Neomi Singer, Nori Jacoby, Talma Hendler, Roni Granot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Music is a complex phenomenon that elicits a range of emotional responses, influenced by numerous variables, such as rhythm, melody and harmony. One interesting aspect of music is listeners’ ability to predict its continuation as it unfolds – an inherent attribute hypothesized to contribute to our emotional response to music. In this study, we investigated this link by examining the relationship between temporal predictability – the ability to predict the timing of the next event – and the ongoing changes in music-induced pleasantness. Temporal predictability was operationalized as the degree to which taps of 20 musically trained participants, who tapped to the beat along three naturalistic and highly contrastive musical pieces, were aligned. We then examined the degree to which this measure could explain the ongoing emotional experience, as reflected in continuous measures of arousal and valence, in a separate group of 40 participants that listened to these pieces. Our findings reveal a positive correlation between fluctuations in reported valence and temporal predictability, even when controlling for a set of other musical features, in four out of five musical sections. The only exception being a lyrical slow section. These findings were further supported by a large online database of annotated musical emotions (n = 1780 songs), where a consistent and robust correlation between valence ratings and an automatically extracted feature of pulse clarity was demonstrated. Overall, our findings shed light on the significance of temporal predictability as a contributing factor to the hedonic experience of music, especially within the tempo range of salient beat perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
JournalJournal of cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


  • arousal
  • emotion
  • music
  • predictive-coding
  • temporal-regularity
  • valence

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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