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Pitch structure, but not selective attention, affects accent weightings in metrical grouping

Prince, J.B. (2014) Pitch structure, but not selective attention, affects accent weightings in metrical grouping. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40 (5). pp. 2073-2090.

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Among other cues, pitch and temporal accents contribute to grouping in musical sequences. However, exactly how they combine remains unclear, possibly because of the role of structural organization. In 3 experiments, participants rated the perceived metrical grouping of sequences that either adhered to the rules of tonal Western musical pitch structure (musical key) or did not (atonal). The tonal status of sequences did not provide any grouping cues and was irrelevant to the task. Experiment 1 established equally strong levels of pitch leap accents and duration accents in baseline conditions, which were then recombined in subsequent experiments. Neither accent type was stronger or weaker for tonal and atonal contexts. In Experiment 2, pitch leap accents dominated over duration accents, but the extent of this advantage was greater when sequences were tonal. Experiment 3 ruled out an attentional origin of this effect by replicating this finding while explicitly manipulating attention to pitch or duration accents between participant groups. Overall, the presence of tonal pitch structure made the dimension of pitch more salient at the expense of time. These findings support a dimensional salience framework in which the presence of organizational structure prioritizes the processing of the more structured dimension regardless of task relevance, independent from psychophysical difficulty, and impervious to attentional allocation.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Copyright: American Psychological Association
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