Schema-based processing in auditory scene analysis

Percept Psychophys. 2002 Jul;64(5):844-54. doi: 10.3758/bf03194750.


What is the involvement of what we know in what we perceive? In this article, the contribution of melodic schema-based processes to the perceptual organization of tone sequences is examined. Two unfamiliar six-tone melodies, one of which was interleaved with distractor tones, were presented successively to listeners who were required to decide whether the melodies were identical or different. In one condition, the comparison melody was presented after the mixed sequence: a target melody interleaved with distractor tones. In another condition, it was presented beforehand, so that the listeners had precise knowledge about the melody to be extracted from the mixture. In the latter condition, recognition performance was better and a bias toward same responses was reduced, as compared with the former condition. A third condition, in which the comparison melody presented beforehand was transposed up in frequency, revealed that whereas the performance improvement was explained in part by absolute pitch or frequency priming, relative pitch representation (interval and/or contour structure) may also have played a role. Differences in performance as a function of mean frequency separation between target and distractor sequences, when listeners did or did not have prior knowledge about the target melody, argue for a functional distinction between primitive and schema-based processes in auditory scene analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male