September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
Cross-modal 'Goodness of Fit' Judgments of Auditory and Visual Meter in Musical Rhythms
Author Affiliations
  • Stephen Palmer
    Psychology, U. C. Berkeley
  • Joshua Peterson
    Psychology, U. C. Berkeley
  • Nori Jacoby
    Neuroscience, Columbia University
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 201. doi:
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      Stephen Palmer, Joshua Peterson, Nori Jacoby; Cross-modal 'Goodness of Fit' Judgments of Auditory and Visual Meter in Musical Rhythms. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):201. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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The metrical hierarchy of musical rhythm is defined by the structure of emphases on beats in measures. We investigated 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures in auditory and visual meter using cross-modal goodness-of-fit ratings for visual and auditory probes, respectively. For auditory context conditions, four measures in 3/4 or 4/4 time were defined by a louder beat followed 2 or 3 softer, equally-timed beats, respectively. A visual probe circle occurred in the next four measures at one of 12 phase-angles relative to the auditory downbeat: 0°, 45°, 60°, 90°, 120°, 135°, 180°, 225°, 240°, 270°, 300°, and 315°. Context and probe modalities were reversed for the visual context conditions. Participants rated how well probe stimuli "fit" the rhythmic context in the other modality. Visual contexts showed an expected beat-defined hierarchy, with highest ratings on the downbeat, next-highest for the other beats, and lowest for non-beats. Auditory contexts showed a single broad peak for the downbeat, with little evidence of elevated fit ratings for other beats over non-beats. Similar results were obtained when participants made explicit ratings of cross-modal synchrony using the same stimuli, suggesting a role for purely psychophysical asymmetries in visual vs. auditory processing. Several factors relevant to explaining the asymmetry between these cross-modal conditions are discussed, including faster and more accurate timing information in auditory than visual perception, and increased precision in timing information with additional repetitions of events occurring at regular intervals. Additional data support the relevance of these factors.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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