Ladinig, O., & Honing, H. (2012). Complexity judgments as a measure of event salience in musical rhythms. Amsterdam: ILLC Prepublication Series, PP-2012-01.


This study investigates potential differences between musicians and non-musicians in their perception of meter. Listeners with a variety of musical backgrounds were asked to judge the complexity of rhythms with 4/4 time signature in a Web-based perception experiment (N = 101). The complexity judgments were used to derive salience values for each position in the rhythms. Both groups showed very similar judgments regarding the influence of the levels of metrical (hierarchical) processing. Further, both groups displayed an influence of the absolute position of an event in a bar (serial position effect). Listeners in both groups perceived a rhythm as more complex when syncopation occurred on an early beat of a bar than when syncopation occurred on the last beat (primacy effect). This primacy effect could be observed on the subbeat level as well, and additionally, a rise in salience for events at the end of a bar was found (recency effect). We propose to update the Longuet-Higgins model of syncopation with these empirically derived values.

Full paper (pdf)

Updated L-model (Algorithm)