August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Temporal-spatial configuration of musical notation: Distinguishing visual and conceptual influences on expert and novice performance
Author Affiliations
  • Niels J. Verosky
    New York University Abu Dhabi
  • Olivia S. Cheung
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5646. doi:
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      Niels J. Verosky, Olivia S. Cheung; Temporal-spatial configuration of musical notation: Distinguishing visual and conceptual influences on expert and novice performance. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5646.

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

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Musical notation consists of individual notes, but rapid processing of notes may depend on configuration of the note sequences. Previous studies found that experts and novices process musical notation holistically but that holistic effects appear automatic for experts and strategic for novices (Wong & Gauthier, 2010). We explored visual and conceptual manipulations on note configurations, which may distinguish expert and novice performance in musical notation reading. In a visual fluency task, participants saw a four-note musical sequence and identified it from two choices that only differed in one note (Wong et al., 2021). We examined how expert and novice performance was affected by visual or conceptual changes in temporal-spatial configuration with 1) visual properties measured by the average change in intervals between consecutive notes, and 2) conceptual properties measured by the statistical expectancy of the final note position in the context of the three preceding notes in musical corpora. We hypothesized that only experts, but not novices, would be sensitive to conceptual changes in musical notation configuration. Using a generalized linear mixed model to predict likelihood of correct response on a given trial, the best fitting model showed a significant effect of group, with better performance for experts (n=17) than novices (n=38). More importantly, a significant effect of interval changes, with no interaction between interval changes and group, suggests that both groups were negatively affected by large visual changes. By contrast, a significant interaction of final-note expectation and group revealed that only experts’ performance was negatively affected when the final note was less expected. These results suggest that while both novices and experts are affected by visual changes in temporal-spatial configuration of musical notes, only experts are sensitive to conceptual changes. Although visual changes influence both experts’ and novices’ recognition, conceptual information acquired through statistical regularities additionally influences expert performance.


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