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Can J Psychol. 1989 Jun;43(2):217-29.

Infants' perception of rhythm: categorization of auditory sequences by temporal structure.


We presented 7- to 9-month-old infants with repetitions of three- or four-tone sequences characterized by a particular rhythmic structure. We then evaluated their detection of changes in rhythmic structure in the context of randomly presented variations in tempo (rate) and frequency. Infants successfully differentiated between three-tones sequences with 1, 2 (X XX) and 2, 1 (XX X) structure as well as four-tone sequences with 2, 2 (XX XX) and 3, 1 (XXX X) structure. In other tasks, they indicated their ability to discriminate between contrasting tempos in the context of frequency variations. We conclude, then, that infants can categorize auditory sequences on the basis of rhythm and also on the basis of tempo.

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