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Learning of timing patterns and the development of temporal expectations

Abstract

The present study investigated the learning of a culturally unfamiliar musical rhythm, leading to the development of temporal expectations, and it explored the potential for generalization across tempi and tasks. With that aim, we adapted the serial reaction time task to examine the learning of temporal structures by an indirect method. The temporal pattern employed was based on a complex interval ratio (2:3) and compared to one based on a simple interval ratio (1:2). In the exposure phase, non-musician participants performed a two-choice speeded discrimination task that required responding by key press to each event of the simple or complex auditory pattern. Participants were not informed about the temporal regularities; their task solely concerned the discrimination task. During exposure (Experiments 1–3), response times decreased over time for both temporal patterns, but particularly for the events following the longer interval of the more complex 2:3 pattern. Exposure further influenced performance in subsequent testing phases, notably the precision of tap timing in a production task (Experiment 2) and temporal expectations in a perception task (Experiment 3). Our findings promote the new paradigm introduced here as a method to investigate the learning of temporal structures.

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Notes

  1. These syllables might differ slightly in their perceptual center, which can be influenced by the initial consonant. However, the influence of these differences should be rather minimal because the syllables had a duration of 470 ms, the minimal SOA was 700 ms and the syllables were presented in random order in the exposure blocks.

  2. The observation that syllable identification was not at ceiling was certainly due to the speeded response requirement, the sequential chaining and the continuous responding. The syllables were clearly distinguishable, as evidenced by a short perceptual test: the syllables were presented (out of context with 5 repetitions for each syllable, presented in random order) to 14 participants; identification scores were 100% for each syllable and participant.

  3. The 224-Exposure served as a control group for the 223-Exposure in two respects: (1) it controlled for exposure to the syllable sequences with a short–short–long grouping, which reinforced binary interval structure with the 224-pattern, and (2) it allowed us to estimate whether the switch in tasks (from the exposure RT task to the production task in Experiment 2 and to the detection task in Experiment 3) might incur a general switch cost (e.g., Schneider & Logan, 2006).

  4. A pooled analysis on the exposure phase of Experiments 1–3 (with Experiment as a between-participants factor) confirmed the interaction between Group, Block and Position (p = 0.001), which did not interact with Experiment (p = 0.69).

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Eminent Visiting Researcher scheme of the University of Western Sydney and the Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP0986394) scheme. We thank Catherine Best for discussions on the present project as well as Clare Howell, Julien Tardieu, and Tim Byron for assistance with data collection and analyses.

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Tillmann, B., Stevens, C. & Keller, P.E. Learning of timing patterns and the development of temporal expectations. Psychological Research 75, 243–258 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-010-0302-7

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