Ladinig, O., & Honing, H. (2007). Complexity judgments as a measure for metric salience: Is there indeed a difference between musicians and non-musicians? Proceedings of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC), ??-??.


The perception and appreciation of meter (as two or more hierarchically related levels of pulse) versus simply perceiving a beat (as one level of pulse) is often attributed to a difference in skills between musicians and non-musicians (Palmer & Krumhansl, 1990; Jongsma, Desain, & Honing, 2004), the former being explicitly trained to recognize more complex metrical relationships. We suggest that these differences are merely a result of the nature of the tasks involved and the type of auditory stimuli used, steering musicians and non- musicians apart (Honing & Ladinig, 2006). It could well be that the probe-tone method applied in the temporal domain is confounded with the actual placement of an event in the bar, with events at the end of a bar requiring more effort, to the point of counting along, which is a typical musicians task, and as such might explain the observed differences.

In this study we will investigate event salience through studying syncopated rhythms, using it as an indirect measure to probe listeners metric expectation (a syncopation being a violation of that metric expectation). Maintaining rhythmical frames and leaving out single tones provides a more ecologically setup, and allows testing mental constructs independent of actual auditory stimulation. We use a model of syncopation by Longuet-Higgins and Lee (1984) (L-model for short), which, interestingly, has never been theoretically challenged or empirically validated, and apply listeners judgements of complexity to improve the underlying event salience profile of the L-Model.

Listeners judgements of rhythmic complexity are collected, using a rating task within a web-based setup. In order to derive values for every position in a grid, stimuli are constructed by systematically leaving out single events in rhythmic pattern. The stimuli are clustered in groups of maximal four rhythms, which allows participants to make direct comparisons. In addition, information about musical background is collected.

Preliminary results suggest that event salience is modulated by meter (in line with earlier research). How- ever, complexity judgements seem to be more related to the beat (main pulse or tactus) than to the subdivisions in the different meters, contrary to what is suggested by the original L-model.

Honing, H., & Ladinig, O. (2006). The effect of exposure and expertise on timing judgments: Preliminary results. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (p. 80-85). Bologna: Italy.
Jongsma, M. L. A., Desain, P., & Honing, H. (2004). Rhythmic context influences the auditory evoked potentials of musicians and nonmusicians. Biological Psychology, 66, 129-152.
Longuet-Higgins, H. C., & Lee, C. S. (1984). The rhythmic interpretation of monophonic music. Music Perception, 1 (4), 424-441.
Palmer, C., & Krumhansl, C. L. (1990). Mental representations for musical meter. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 16 (4), 728-741.