Sweet spot in music—Is predictability preferred among persons with psychotic-like experiences or autistic traits?
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionPLOS ONE. 2022, 17 (9), . 10.1371/journal.pone.0275308
People prefer music with an intermediate level of predictability; not so predictable as to be boring, yet not so unpredictable that it ceases to be music. This sweet spot for predictability varies due to differences in the perception of predictability. The symptoms of both psychosis and Autism Spectrum Disorder have been attributed to overestimation of uncertainty, which predicts a preference for predictable stimuli and environments. In a pre-registered study, we tested this prediction by investigating whether psychotic and autistic traits were associated with a higher preference for predictability in music. Participants from the general population were presented with twenty-nine pre-composed music excerpts, scored on their complexity by musical experts. A participant’s preferred level of predictability corresponded to the peak of the inverted U-shaped curve between music complexity and liking (i.e., a Wundt curve). We found that the sweet spot for predictability did indeed vary between individuals. Contrary to predictions, we did not find support for these variations being associated with autistic and psychotic traits. The findings are discussed in the context of the Wundt curve and the use of naturalistic stimuli. We also provide recommendations for further exploration.