Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Donald U. Robertson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David J. LaPorte, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan T. Zimny, Ph.D.


Research has shown that expectation is an important part of music perception. Grouping effects create musical expectation. Musical expectation enables musical memory. Little research to date has explored the effect of violated musical expectations. This dissertation attempts to answer the question: Does violation of expectation in melodic contour affect musical memory? Subjects listened to six melodies, three of which contained a violation of melodic expectation and three of which did not. After hearing each melody, subjects were prompted to choose which of three phrases was contained in the just-heard melody. The dependent variable was comprised of: 1) whether or not the subject chose the correct phrase, and 2) the subject's confidence rating in his memory, which operationalized the strength of the effect. It was expected that subjects would have poor recognition memory and low confidence when the melodies contained a violated expectation. It was also expected that when asked to recognize the phrase containing the violation that subjects would be able to do so and would be confident in their memory in this condition. The results suggest that memory is hindered by violated expectations, but that subjects may not be aware that their memory is fallible. The effect was most pronounced in the phrase containing the target note, not the phrases before or after the violation as was hypothesized. It is possible that subjects were not actually using their memories to recognize the just-heard phrases. These results suggest that subjects created a mental map using musical expectation. Then, subjects used the mental map to calculate which of the three phrases was the most likely to have been in the previous melody rather than attempting to actually recognize the correct phrase. Subjects, in essence, reconstructed their memories of the melodies. In the case of the melodies containing violated expectation, their reconstructed musical memories were false. The implications for musical memory are addressed.