Does unfairness sound wrong? A cross-domain investigation of expectations in music and social decision-making

Journal article


Civai, C, Teodorini, R and Carrus, E (2020). Does unfairness sound wrong? A cross-domain investigation of expectations in music and social decision-making. Royal Society Open Science.
AuthorsCivai, C, Teodorini, R and Carrus, E
Abstract

This study was interested in investigating the existence of a shared psychological mechanism for the processing of expectations across domains. The literature on music and language shows that violations of expectations produce similar neural responses and violating the expectation in one domain may influence the processing of stimuli in the other domain. Like music and language, our social world is governed by a system of inherent rules or norms, such as fairness. The study therefore aimed to draw a parallel to the social domain and investigate whether a manipulation of melodic expectation can influence the processing of higher-level expectations of fairness. Specifically, we aimed to investigate whether the presence of an unexpected melody enhances or reduces participants’ sensitivity to the violations of fairness and the behavioural reactions associated with these. We embedded a manipulation of melodic expectation within a social decision-making paradigm, whereby musically expected and unexpected stimuli will be simultaneously presented with fair and unfair divisions in a third-party altruistic punishment game. Both behavioural and EEG responses were recorded. Results from the pre-planned analyses show that participants are less likely to punish when the melodic stimuli are more unexpected and that violations of fairness norms elicit MFN-life effects. However, since no significant interactions between melodic expectancy and fairness of the division were found, results fail to provide evidence of a shared mechanism for the processing of expectations. Exploratory analyses show two additional effects: i) unfair divisions elicit an early attentional component (P2), likely associated with stimulus saliency, and ii) mid-value divisions elicit a late MFN-like component, likely reflecting stimulus ambiguity. Future studies could build on these results to further investigate the effect of the cross-domain influence of music on the processing of social stimuli on these early and late components.

Keywordsexpectation; social decision-making; EEG; music
Year2020
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
PublisherRoyal Society, The
ISSN2054-5703
Publication process dates
Accepted24 Aug 2020
Deposited25 Aug 2020
Accepted author manuscript
License
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Open
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File access level: Open

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