4aSC29. Infant preference for harmonic closure in musical sequences.

Session: Thursday Morning, May 16

Author: Michael L. Tucker
Author: J. David Smith
Author: Peter W. Jusczyk
Location: Dept. of Psych., SUNY, Park Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260


Previous investigations of Western tonal sensitivity suggest that young infants may have rudimentary tonal knowledge, for they notice altered notes and chords in a variety of change/no-change discrimination tasks. In contrast, infants' preference for different tonal structures was evaluated here using the head-turn preference procedure. A group of infant subjects (age 6 months) was presented diatonic melodic sequences, identical in duration, tempo, and intervallic distance, that either reached harmonic closure (closed) or did not (open). Six closed--open pairs were constructed by matching sequences for pitch contour. The sequences were presented in a random order, and orientation times to each sequence were recorded. Surprisingly, 6-month-olds revealed a significant preference for the harmonically open melodic sequences. An additional study examines whether 9-month-olds exhibit a reversal of this preference, or whether harmonic incompleteness continues to recruit attentional processes. These findings are considered in light of the child's growing experience with Western tonal music, and auditory-perceptual reorganizations that may occur during the latter half of the first year in music and speech. [Work supported by NIDCD.]

from ASA 131st Meeting, Indianapolis, May 1996