TitleAcquiring New Musical Grammars: a Statistical Learning Approach
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsLoui, P, Wessel, D
Conference Name9th International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition
Conference LocationBologna, Italy

In the present study we examine the ability of humans to acquire knowledge via passive exposure to a new musical system. We designed two new musical grammars based on a non-Western tuning system, and created melodies as legal exemplars of each grammar. In two experiments each participant was exposed to a set of melodies from one grammar. Several tests were conducted to assess learning, including forced-choice recognition and generalization, pre- and post-exposure probe tone ratings, and subjective preference ratings. In Experiment 1, five melodies were presented repeatedly. Participants correctly recognized and preferred melodies they had heard, but failed to generalize their recognition to new exemplars of the same grammar. In Experiment 2, 15 melodies were presented repeatedly. Participants showed some tendency to make generalizations about new melodies in their given grammar, and also showed an increased sensitivity to the statistics of the musical grammar following exposure. Results suggest that larger sets of exemplars promote the extraction of regularities underlying the examples, whereas smaller sets lead to better recognition and are more likely to influence subjective preference.