ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (5): 742-756.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2017.00742

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Neural evidence for musical meaning transmission: Findings and thoughts based on the priming paradigm

YU Xide1; LU Cheng2; XIONG Xiling1; GAO Dingguo1   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Mental Health, Guangzhou 510006, China) (2 Nanfang College of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510970, China)
  • Received:2016-10-18 Online:2017-05-15 Published:2017-05-15
  • Contact: GAO Dingguo, E-mail:


Using four classical priming paradigms -- semantic priming, conceptual priming, affective priming and harmonic priming -- cognitive neuroscientists suggest that music transmits different meanings, because they have found two EEG signals N400 and N5 that correspond to extra-musical meaning and intra-music meaning respectively. We analyzed the four priming paradigms and found that: the core characteristics of these four paradigms is “the match or mismatch effect” based on “musical gestalt” or “musical expectancy”, meanwhile, these four paradigms can be further divided into “semantic medium paradigm” and “non-semantic medium paradigm”. Recent studies reveal that N400 and N5 responses are not independent. Instead, they may be two expressions of the same neural activity. As an artistic format of human creation, the transmission of meaning via music carry features of a particular era, region or culture, which in turn affect the generalizability and uniqueness of transmitting meanings via music. Therefore, in the future, cognitive neuroscientific studies of music should consider a broader range of humanistic factors, such as historical or social backgrounds.

Key words: music, intra-meaning, extra-meaning, N400, N5