Tempo discrimination of musical patterns: effects due to pitch and rhythmic structure

Percept Psychophys. 1998 Nov;60(8):1357-73. doi: 10.3758/bf03207998.


The purpose of this research was to investigate a set of factors that may influence the perceived rate of an auditory event. In a paired-comparison task, subjects were presented with a set of music-like patterns that differed in their relative number of contour changes and in the magnitude of pitch skips (Experiment 1) as well as in the compatibility of rhythmic accent structure with the arrangement of pitch relations (Experiment 2) Results indicated that, relative to their standard referents, comparison melodies were judged to unfold more slowly when they displayed more changes in pitch direction, greater pitch distances, and an incompatible rhythmic accent structure. These findings are suggested to stem from an imputed velocity hypothesis, in which people overgeneralize certain invariant relations that typically occur between melodic and temporal accent structure within Western music.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Pitch Discrimination*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Time Perception*