Quantifying Culture: The Cultural Distance Hypothesis of Melodic Expectancy

Steven M Demorest, Steven Morrison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


All normally developing children acquire an understanding of the music and language of their culture without explicit instruction. This is known as enculturation. The process of musical enculturation is not well understood, but researchers have hypothesized that some form of statistical learning similar to that which influences language acquisition may underlie musical enculturation as well. We propose a “cultural distance hypothesis” that posits predictable expectation and memory responses for out-of-culture music based on a statistical comparison of that music with the listener’s first music. The hypothesis is based on work in computer modeling of melodic expectancy as well as our own work in cross-cultural music understanding. We propose a series of studies to critically test the hypothesis and discuss implications for other domains of cultural neuroscience.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Cultural Neuroscience
EditorsJoan Y. Chiao, Shu-Chen Li, Rebecca Seligman, Robert Turner
PublisherOxford University Press.
ISBN (Print)9780199357376
StatePublished - Dec 24 2015


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