Is melodic expectancy influenced by pitch and temporal manipulations?

Ethics approval: 2012-065

Jon Prince
Leong Min Loo

The aim of this study is to examine the effect of altering the surface structure and organisational framework of both pitch and time on expectancy ratings of melodies. The pitches and durations comprising each melody were presented either in their original order, as a reordered sequence, as a sequence with modified contour, or as a sequence with modified contour randomly reordered. 24 participants, exposed primarily to Western tonal music, provided expectancy ratings of the sequences in two selective attention conditions (attend to pitch only, or time only), and one global (attend to both pitch and time) condition (blocked). All manipulations of pitch and time influenced perceived melodic expectancy, however for both dimensions, manipulating the organisational framework was more effective than changes to the surface structure. Under selective attention conditions, the irrelevant dimension still influenced ratings but its effect size was attenuated in accordance with the instructions. Effects of pitch and time were significant for all instructional conditions. These results emphasise the importance of tonal and metric hierarchies as organisational frameworks for melodic perception, and provided a better insight of the overall contribution of both pitch and temporal dimensions in formation of musical expectancies.