Date of Submission

Spring 2021

Academic Program

Music; Psychology; Psychology

Project Advisor 1

Justin Hulbert

Project Advisor 2

Kyle Gann

Abstract/Artist's Statement

When listening to music, humans can easily and often automatically assess the perceptual similarity of different moments in music. However, it is difficult to rigorously define the way in which we determine exactly how similar we find to moments to be. This problem has driven inquiry in music cognition, musicology, and music theory alike, but previous results have depended on behaviorally mediated responses and/or recursive analytic strategies by music scholars. The present work employs the context-dependent memory paradigm as a novel way to investigate the extent to which listeners consider two musical examples to be similar. After incidentally learning words while listening to a 5:4 polyrhythm forming a perfect fifth, participants could hear no sound or the polyrhythm at a different pitch interval during a surprise test of recall. Between-subjects comparisons found no effect of the actual sound context at test on recall; however, participants who reported being in the same sound context did recall significantly more words than others. Interactions between actual and reported sound context were not accounted for by musical experience or other participant factors, and reported sound context was more often incompatible than compatible with actual sound context. Contributions to mental context theory and the boundaries of conclusions about musical features are discussed.

Open Access Agreement

Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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