Infants use meter to categorize rhythms and melodies: Implications for musical structure learning

Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Cognitive Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.06). 07/2005; 50(4):354-77. DOI: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2004.09.003
Source: PubMed


Little is known about whether infants perceive meter, the underlying temporal structure of music. We employed a habituation paradigm to examine whether 7-month-old infants could categorize rhythmic and melodic patterns on the basis of the underlying meter, which was implied from event and accent frequency of occurrence. In Experiment 1, infants discriminated duple and triple classes of rhythm on the basis of implied meter. Experiment 2 replicated this result while controlling for rhythmic grouping structure, confirming that infants perceived metrical structure despite occasional ambiguities and conflicting group structure. In Experiment 3, infants categorized melodies on the basis of contingencies between metrical position and pitch. Infants presented with metrical melodies detected reversals of pitch/meter contingencies, while infants presented with non-metrical melodies showed no preference. Results indicate that infants can infer meter from rhythmic patterns, and that they may use this metrical structure to bootstrap their knowledge acquisition in music learning.

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    • "Ontogenetically, rhythm discrimination is observed in infants as young as 2 months of age (Trehub and Hannon, 2006). Like adults, 7-months old infants can infer an underlying beat, categorizing rhythms on the basis of meter (Hannon and Johnson, 2005), and 9- month old infants can more readily notice small timing discrepancies in strongly metrical than in non-metrical rhythms (Bergeson and Trehub, 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: Musical training has recently gained additional interest in education as increasing neuroscientific research demonstrates its positive effects on brain development. Neuroimaging revealed plastic changes in the brains of adult musicians but it is still unclear to what extent they are the product of intensive music training rather than of other factors, such as preexisting biological markers of musicality. In this review, we synthesize a large body of studies demonstrating that benefits of musical training extend beyond the skills it directly aims to train and last well into adulthood. For example, children who undergo musical training have better verbal memory, second language pronunciation accuracy, reading ability and executive functions. Learning to play an instrument as a child may even predict academic performance and IQ in young adulthood. The degree of observed structural and functional adaptation in the brain correlates with intensity and duration of practice. Importantly, the effects on cognitive development depend on the timing of musical initiation due to sensitive periods during development, as well as on several other modulating variables. Notably, we point to motivation, reward and social context of musical education, which are important yet neglected factors affecting the long-term benefits of musical training. Further, we introduce the notion of rhythmic entrainment and suggest that it may represent a mechanism supporting learning and development of executive functions. It also hones temporal processing and orienting of attention in time that may underlie enhancements observed in reading and verbal memory. We conclude that musical training uniquely engenders near and far transfer effects, preparing a foundation for a range of skills, and thus fostering cognitive development.
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 03/2014; 7:279. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2013.00279 · 3.66 Impact Factor
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    • "The ability to keep a beat lies at the heart of music-making. A typically-developing child can maintain a steady beat as young as four years old[1], and even infants can “feel the beat”, demonstrating sensitivity to metrical structure well before they are able to synchronize to it themselves[2,3]. Though the emergence and mastery of rhythm skills can continue through to adulthood, rhythmic competence can depend greatly on the extent of engagement with music [4-7]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Temporal processing underlies both music and language skills. There is increasing evidence that rhythm abilities track with reading performance and that language disorders such as dyslexia are associated with poor rhythm abilities. However, little is known about how basic time-keeping skills can be shaped by musical training, particularly during critical literacy development years. This study was carried out in collaboration with Harmony Project, a non-profit organization providing free music education to children in the gang reduction zones of Los Angeles. Our findings reveal that elementary school children with just one year of classroom music instruction perform more accurately in a basic finger-tapping task than their untrained peers, providing important evidence that fundamental time-keeping skills may be strengthened by short-term music training. This sets the stage for further examination of how music programs may be used to support the development of basic skills underlying learning and literacy, particularly in at-risk populations which may benefit the most.
    PLoS ONE 10/2013; 8(10):e77250. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0077250 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Culture-specific knowledge sometimes interferes with the perception of novel metrical categories. Unlike adults of Balkan origin, Western adults have difficulty detecting meter-violating changes in Balkan music with a complex meter, but they detect such changes in Balkan music with a simple meter (Hannon & Trehub, 2005a). By contrast, Western 6-month-olds detect meter-violating changes in Balkan music with a simple or complex meter (Hannon & Trehub, 2005a). "
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    ABSTRACT: We examined the influence of incidental exposure to varied metrical patterns from different musical cultures on the perception of complex metrical structures from an unfamiliar musical culture. Adults who were familiar with Western music only (i.e., simple meters) and those who also had limited familiarity with non-Western music were tested on their perception of metrical organization in unfamiliar (Turkish) music with simple and complex meters. Adults who were familiar with Western music detected meter-violating changes in Turkish music with simple meter but not in Turkish music with complex meter. Adults with some exposure to non-Western music that was unmetered or metrically complex detected meter-violating changes in Turkish music with both simple and complex meters, but they performed better on patterns with a simple meter. The implication is that familiarity with varied metrical structures, including those with a non-isochronous tactus, enhances sensitivity to the metrical organization of unfamiliar music.
    Psychological Research 03/2013; 77(1):196-203. DOI:10.1007/s00426-012-0427-y · 2.47 Impact Factor
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