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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2014 Feb;40(1):40-9. doi: 10.1037/a0033471. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

Revisiting the innate preference for consonance.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto.


The origin of the Western preference for consonance remains unresolved, with some suggesting that the preference is innate. In Experiments 1 and 2 of the present study, 6-month-old infants heard six different consonant/dissonant pairs of stimuli, including those tested in previous research. In contrast to the findings of others, infants in the present study failed to listen longer to consonant stimuli. After 3 minutes of exposure to consonant or dissonant stimuli in Experiment 3, 6-month-old infants listened longer to the familiar stimulus, whether consonant or dissonant. Our findings are inconsistent with innate preferences for consonant stimuli. Instead, the effect of short-term exposure is consistent with the view that familiarity underlies the origin of the Western preference for consonant intervals.

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