Implicit learning of tonality: a self-organizing approach

Psychol Rev. 2000 Oct;107(4):885-913. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.107.4.885.


Tonal music is a highly structured system that is ubiquitous in our cultural environment. We demonstrate the acquisition of implicit knowledge of tonal structure through neural self-organization resulting from mere exposure to simultaneous and sequential combinations of tones. In the process of learning, a network with fundamental neural constraints comes to internalize the essential correlational structure of tonal music. After learning, the network was run through a range of experiments from the literature. The model provides a parsimonious account of a variety of empirical findings dealing with the processing of tone, chord, and key relationships, including relatedness judgments, memory judgments, and expectancies. It also illustrates the plausibility of activation being a unifying mechanism underlying a range of cognitive tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology
  • Music*
  • Psychological Theory*