Everyday Musical Experience Is Sufficient to Perceive the Speech-to-Song Illusion

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Speech and song are readily differentiated from each other in everyday communication, yet sometimes listeners who have formal music training will hear a spoken utterance transform from speech to song when it is repeated (Deutsch, Henthorn, & Lapidis, 2011). It remains unclear whether music training is required to perceive this illusory transformation or whether implicit knowledge of musical structure is sufficient. The current study replicates Deutsch et al.’s findings with musicians and demonstrates the generalizability of this auditory illusion to casual music listeners with no formal training. We confirm that the illusory transformation is disrupted when the pitch height of each repetition of the utterance is transposed, and we find that raising the pitch height has a different effect on listeners’ ratings than does lowering it. Auditory illusions such as this may offer unique opportunities to compare domain-specific and domain-general processing in the brain while holding acoustic characteristics constant.

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