Regularity and dimensional salience in temporal grouping

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2018 Sep;44(9):1356-1367. doi: 10.1037/xhp0000542. Epub 2018 Apr 30.


How do pitch and duration accents combine to influence the perceived grouping of musical sequences? Sequence context influences the relative importance of these accents; for example, the presence of learned structure in pitch exaggerates the effect of pitch accents at the expense of duration accents despite being irrelevant to the task and not attributable to attention (Prince, 2014b). In the current study, two experiments examined whether the presence of temporal structure has the opposite effect. Experiment 1 tested baseline conditions, in which participants (N = 30) heard sequences with various sizes of either pitch or duration accents, which implied either duple or triple groupings (accent every two or three notes, respectively). Sequences either had regular temporal structure (isochronous) or not (irregular, via using random interonset intervals). Regularity enhanced the effect of duration accents but had negligible influence on pitch accents. The accent sizes that gave the most equivalent ratings across dimension and regularity levels were used in Experiment 2 (N = 33), in which sequences contained both pitch and duration accents that suggested either duple, triple, or neutral groupings. Despite controlling for the baseline effect of regularity by selecting equally effective accent sizes, regularity had additional effects on duration accents, but only for duple groupings. Regularity did not influence the effectiveness of pitch accents when combined with duration accents. These findings offer some support for a dimensional salience hypothesis, which proposes that the presence of temporal structure should foster duration accent effectiveness at the expense of pitch accents. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult