Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 202, Issue 1, pp 101–110 | Cite as

Self versus other in piano performance: detectability of timing perturbations depends on personal playing style

  • Bruno H. Repp
  • Peter E. Keller
Research Article


Differences between recorded repetitions of one’s own movements are detected more readily than are differences between repetitions of others’ movements, suggesting improved visual discrimination due to heightened resonance in the observer’s action system and/or relatively accurate internal action simulation (Daprati et al. in Conscious Cogn 16:178–188, 2007). In Experiment 1, we attempted to replicate this finding in the auditory modality. Pianists were recorded playing musical excerpts three times and later judged whether pairs of recordings were the same take or different takes of the same excerpt. They were no better at distinguishing different takes of their own playing than those of other pianists’ playing, even though discrimination and self-recognition were well above chance. In Experiment 2, the same pianists tried to detect small local timing deviations that had been introduced artificially. They were better at detecting such deviations in their own performances than in those of another pianist, but only if the deviations were placed at points of a pre-existing self-other difference in local timing. In that case, pianists’ ability to predict their own characteristic action pattern did aid their perception of temporal irregularity. These results do not support the perceptual sharpening hypothesis of Daprati et al. in the musical domain, but they do suggest that pianists listening to performances generate idiosyncratic temporal expectations, probably through internal action simulation.


Self-recognition Action simulation Motor resonance Expectancy Timing perception Music performance Forward models 



This research was supported by the Max Planck Society and also by National Science Foundation grant BCS-0642506 to BHR. We are grateful to Kerstin Träger for recruiting and scheduling the participants, to Angela Schimming and Regine Steinke for running the experiments and analyzing the data, and to Emily Cross and Günther Knoblich for helpful comments on a draft of the manuscript. We also thank Paolo Viviani and an anonymous reviewer for their suggestions on improving the original manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Haskins LaboratoriesNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain SciencesLeipzigGermany

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