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Kinnera Maturi, Heather Sheridan; Eye movements reveal the visual component of music expertise: Evidence from a music-related visual search task. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1216. doi: 10.1167/18.10.1216.
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An important component of expertise is the ability to rapidly recognize domain-related perceptual patterns. To explore this ability in the domain of music reading, we monitored the eye movements of expert musicians (with a minimum of 10 years of music reading experience) and novices (who could not read music) while they completed a music-related visual search task. Specifically, the participants rapidly located target bars of piano sheet music within larger music scores that varied in visual complexity. Throughout each trial, the target bar was always displayed above the music score to allow the participants to make visual comparisons between the score and the target bar during their search. Both experts and novices were able to complete this visual search task with a high level of accuracy, which allowed us to explore visual search strategies across a wide span of expertise. Also, since the task did not require music performance, we were able to control for potentially confounding variables, including tempo differences across music scores of varying complexities. Relative to visually complex music scores, the visually simple music scores elicited faster reaction times, longer saccades, and fewer fixations. As well, the task elicited strong expert/novice differences; relative to novices, the experts showed faster reaction times, faster fixation times, and fewer fixations. Surprisingly, the experts displayed shorter saccade amplitudes than the novices during this task, which might have occurred because the novices were making long comparison saccades to compare the bar that they were currently processing with the target bar at the top of the screen. Overall, the results are consistent with the predictions of chunking and template theories of human expertise, and the results build on previous findings from other domains (e.g., medicine, chess, face perception, etc.) by demonstrating the remarkable ability of experts to rapidly recognize complex visual patterns.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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