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Percept Psychophys. 2007 Nov;69(8):1450-9.

Influence of a tone's tonal function on temporal change detection.

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CNRS-UMR 5020, Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, Lyon, France.


Music cognition research has provided evidence that the tonal function of a musical event influences perception and memory. Our study investigated whether tonal function influences a basic temporal judgment, notably the detection of a temporal change disrupting a sequence's regularity. The sequences consisted of six musical events presented in isochrony (or with the fifth event occurring earlier or later): Three chords (instilling a tonal context) were followed by a tone (repeated three times). The tones fulfilled one of two tonal functions in the tonal context. Participants had to detect whether the sequence contained a temporal change and were not informed about tonal manipulations. Discrimination performance (as measured by d') showed an influence of tonal function on temporal change detection: Performance was better for the tonic tone (having the most important tonal function in the key) than for the unstable leading tone, the less stable mediant tone, and even than the stable dominant tone. The outcome shows the influence of listeners' tonal knowledge on a perceptual time judgment and suggests that processing of tonal and temporal structures interact at some stage of processing.

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