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Responsiveness of Western adults to pitch-distributional information in melodic sequences

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Responsiveness of musically trained and untrained adults to pitch-distributional information in melodic contexts was assessed. In Experiment 1, melodic contexts were pure-tone sequences, generated from either a diatonic or one of four nondiatonic tonesets, in which pitch-distributional information was manipulated by variation of the relative frequency of occurrence of tones from the toneset. Both the assignment of relative frequency of occurrence to tones and the construction of the (fixed) temporal order of tones within the sequences contravened the conventions of western tonal music. A probe-tone technique was employed. Each presentation of a sequence was followed by a probe tone, one of the 12 chromatic notes within the octave. Listeners rated the goodness of musical fit of the probe tone to the sequence. Probe-tone ratings were significantly related to frequency of occurrence of the probe tone in the sequence for both trained and untrained listeners. In addition, probe-tone ratings decreased as the pitch distance between the probe tone and the final tone of the sequence increased. For musically trained listeners, probe-tone ratings for diatonic sequences tended also to reflect the influence of an internalized tonal schema. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the temporal location of tones in the sequences could not alone account for the effect of frequency of occurrence in Experiment 1. Experiment 3 tested musically untrained listeners under the conditions of Experiment 1, with the exception that the temporal order of tones in each sequence was randomized across trials. The effect of frequency of occurrence found in Experiment 1 was replicated and strengthened.

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Correspondence to N. Oram.

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Oram, N., Cuddy, L.L. & Oram, N. Responsiveness of Western adults to pitch-distributional information in melodic sequences. Psychol. Res 57, 103–118 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00447080

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  • Relative Frequency
  • Temporal Location
  • Temporal Order
  • Probe Tone
  • Tonal Music