Mental Representations in Musical Processing and their Role in Action-Perception Loops


  • Rebecca S. Schaefer SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara



music imagination, predictive processing, embodied music cognition


Music is created in the listener as it is perceived and interpreted - its meaning derived from our unique sense of it; likely driving the range of interpersonal differences found in music processing. Person-specific mental representations of music are thought to unfold on multiple levels as we listen, spanning from an entire piece of music to regularities detected across notes. As we track incoming auditory information, predictions are generated at different levels for different musical aspects, leading to specific percepts and behavioral outputs, illustrating a tight coupling of cognition, perception and action. This coupling, together with a prominent role of prediction in music processing, fits well with recently described ideas about the role of predictive processing in cognitive function, which appears to be especially suitable to account for the role of mental models in musical perception and action. Investigating the cerebral correlates of constructive music imagination offers an experimentally tractable approach to clarifying how mental models of music are represented in the brain. I suggest here that mental representations underlying imagery are multimodal, informed and modulated by the body and its in- and outputs, while perception and action are informed and modulated by predictions based on mental models.




How to Cite

Schaefer, R. S. (2015). Mental Representations in Musical Processing and their Role in Action-Perception Loops. Empirical Musicology Review, 9(3-4), 161–176.