Learning and liking an artificial musical system: Effects of set size and repeated exposure
Loui, P. & Wessel, D. (2008). Learning and liking an artificial musical system: Effects of set size and repeated exposure. Musicae Scientiae, 12(2), 207-230.
We report an investigation of humans' musical learning ability using a novel musical system. We designed an artificial musical system based on the Bohlen-Pierce scale, a scale very different from Western music. Melodies were composed from chord progressions in the new scale by applying the rules of a finite-state grammar. After exposing participants to sets of melodies, we conducted listening tests to assess learning, including recognition tests, generalization tests, and subjective preference ratings. In Experiment 1, participants were presented with 15 melodies 27 times each. Forced choice results showed that participants were able to recognize previously encountered melodies and generalize their knowledge to new melodies, suggesting internalization of the musical grammar. Preference ratings showed no differentiation among familiar, new, and ungrammatical melodies. In Experiment 2, participants were given 10 melodies 40 times each. Results showed superior recognition but unsuccessful generalization. Additionally, preference ratings were significantly higher for familiar melodies. Results from the two experiments suggest that humans can internalize the grammatical structure of a new musical system following exposure to a sufficiently large set size of melodies, but musical preference results from repeated exposure to a small number of items. This dissociation between grammar learning and preference will be further discussed. ...
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