Change detection and schematic processing in music

TitleChange detection and schematic processing in music
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsAgres K
JournalPsychology of Music

Research in vision has highlighted the importance of gist representations in change detection and memory. This paper puts forth the hypothesis that schematic processing and gist provide an account for change detection in music as well, where a musical gist is an abstracted memory representation for schematically consistent tones. The present experiments illuminate the content of gist memory representations by testing when listeners can detect single-tone changes in pairs of melodies. In Experiment 1, musicians and non-musicians listened to melodies varying in tonal structure. Less structure resulted in compromised change detection in both groups. Most often, musicians displayed more accurate change detection than non-musicians, but surprisingly, when schematic processing could not contribute to memory encoding, musicians performed worse than their untrained counterparts. Experiment 2 utilized a full-factorial design to examine tonality, interval of pitch change, metrical position, and rhythm. Tonality had a particularly large effect on performance, with non-scale tones generally aiding change detection. Listeners were unlikely, however, to detect schematically-inconsistent tones when only brief melodic context was available. The results uphold the hypothesis that memory for melodies relies on schematic processing, with change detection dependent upon whether the change alters the schematic gist of the melody.