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J Exp Child Psychol. 1999 Oct;74(2):107-27.

Culture-general and culture-specific factors in the discrimination of melodies.

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University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.


We examined effects of a culture-general factor, pattern redundancy (number of repeated tones), on the discrimination of 5-tone melodies that differed in their adherence to Western tonal conventions. Experiment 1 evaluated the ability of 9-month-old infants to differentiate "standard" melodies from subtly altered "comparison" melodies. Greater redundancy of the standard melodies was associated with enhanced infant performance, but musical conventionality had no effect. Experiment 2 evaluated comparable abilities in 5-year-old children and musically untrained adults. Children's performance was enhanced by the redundancy of standard melodies, but the effect was greater in conventional than in unconventional contexts. The redundancy of standard melodies facilitated adults' performance in conventional but not in unconventional contexts. Thus, increasing musical exposure seems to attenuate the effects of culture-general factors such as pattern redundancy while amplifying the influence of culture-specific factors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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