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The Distinctiveness Effect in the Recognition of Whole Melodies


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Rainsford, M, Palmer, MA ORCID: 0000-0002-3467-3364 and Sauer, JD ORCID: 0000-0002-0872-3647 2019 , 'The Distinctiveness Effect in the Recognition of Whole Melodies' , Music Perception, vol. 36, no. 3 , pp. 253-272 , doi: 10.1525/mp.2019.36.3.253.

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Distinctive stimuli are better recognized than typical stimuli in many domains (e.g., faces, words). Distinctiveness predicts the point of recognition of a melody (Bailes, 2010), and the recognition of unique tones within a melody (Vuvan, Podolak, & Schmuckler, 2014), yet no studies have examined the role of distinctiveness in recognizing whole melodies. We composed a set of novel melodies according to rules that should result in these being perceived as more or less distinctive. Using computational analysis and human ratings by a group of 36 pilot testers, we established a final stimulus set of 96 novel melodies (48 eightnote, 48 sixteen-note), half of which were high and half low in distinctiveness. A separate group of 26 participants completed a recognition test using this stimulus set. Using linear mixed-effects modeling, we found that greater pitch and interval range, wider intervals, varied contour, and ambiguous tonality within a Western diatonic framework predicted human perception of distinctiveness. However, only a wider modal (most frequent) interval predicted correct recognition. Distinctiveness improved recognition performance in both stimulus lengths; however, a significant advantage was only shown for sixteen-note melodies. Thus, the distinctiveness effect as observed across domains generalizes to the recognition of longer, whole melodies.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Rainsford, M and Palmer, MA and Sauer, JD
Keywords: distinctiveness effect, melody, recognition, mirror effect, computational modeling
Journal or Publication Title: Music Perception
Publisher: Univ Calif Press
ISSN: 0730-7829
DOI / ID Number: 10.1525/mp.2019.36.3.253
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2019 Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.

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