Context Effects on Musical Chord Categorization: Different Forms of Top‐Down Feedback in Speech and Music?

Cognitive Science 32 (5):893-920 (2008)
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A critical issue in perception is the manner in which top‐down expectancies guide lower level perceptual processes. In speech, a common paradigm is to construct continua ranging between two phonetic endpoints and to determine how higher level lexical context influences the perceived boundary. We applied this approach to music, presenting participants with major/minor triad continua after brief musical contexts. Two experiments yielded results that differed from classic results in speech perception. In speech, context generally expands the category of the expected stimuli. We found the opposite in music: The major/minor boundary shifted toward the expected category, contracting it. Together, these experiments support the hypothesis that musical expectancy can feed back to affect lower‐level perceptual processes. However, it may do so in a way that differs fundamentally from what has been seen in other domains.



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