, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 737-745

Distinctiveness and serial position effects in tonal sequences

Abstract

The proportion-of-the-total-duration rule (Kidd & Watson, 1992) states that the detectability of a change in a component of a tonal sequence can be predicted by the proportional duration of the changed component relative to the length of the sequence as a whole. A similar viewpoint relies on temporal distinctiveness to account for primacy, recency, and other serial position effects in memory (Murdock, 1960; Neath, 1993a, 1993b). Such distinctiveness models predict that an item will be remembered if it is more distinctive along some dimension relative to possible competitors. Three experiments explored the relation between distinctiveness and proportional duration by examining the effects of the proportion of the total duration of a tone in a sequence, serial position, and interstimulus interval (ISI) on the detection of a change in one component of a tonal sequence. Experiment 1 replicated the basic effect with relatively untrained subjects and a fixed frequency difference. Experiment 2 showed that distinctiveness holds for tonal sequences and a same/different task. Experiment 3 combined the two to show that proportional duration, ISI, and position of the changed tone all contribute to discrimination performance. The present research combines theories that have been proposed in the psychophysics and memory fields and suggests that a comprehensive principle based on relative distinctiveness may be able to account for both perceptual and memory effects.

Portions of this paper were presented at the 131st meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Indianapolis, IN.