Bouwer, F., & Honing, H. (2012). Temporal attending and prediction influence the perception of metrical rhythm: evidence from reaction times and ERPs Frontiers in Psychology 6, 01094.

The processing of rhythmic events in music is influenced by the induced metrical structure. Two mechanisms underlying this may be temporal attending and temporal prediction. Temporal fluctuations in attentional resources may influence the processing of rhythmic events by heightening sensitivity at metrically strong positions. Temporal predictions may attenuate responses to events that are highly expected within a metrical structure. In the current study we aimed to disentangle these two mechanisms by examining responses to unexpected sounds, using intensity increments and decrements as deviants. Temporal attending was hypothesized to lead to better detection of deviants in metrically strong (on the beat) than weak (offbeat) positions due to heightened sensitivity on the beat. Temporal prediction was hypothesized to lead to best detection of increments in offbeat positions and decrements on the beat, as they would be most unexpected in these positions. We used a speeded detection task to measure detectability of the deviants under attended conditions (Experiment 1). Under unattended conditions (Experiment 2), we used EEG to measure the mismatch negativity (MMN), an ERP component known to index the detectability of unexpected auditory events. Furthermore, we examined the amplitude of the auditory evoked P1 and N1 responses, which are known to be sensitive to both attention and prediction. We found better detection of small increments in offbeat positions than on the beat, consistent with the influence of temporal prediction (Experiment 1). In addition, we found faster detection of large increments on the beat as opposed to offbeat (Experiment 1), and larger amplitude P1 responses on the beat as compared to offbeat, both in support of temporal attending (Experiment 2). As such, we showed that both temporal attending and temporal prediction shape our processing of metrical rhythm.

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