Listeners Lengthen Phrase Boundaries in Self-Paced Music

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Previous work has shown that musicians tend to slow down as they approach phrase boundaries (phrase-final lengthening). In the present experiments, we used a paradigm from the action perception literature, the dwell time paradigm (Hard, Recchia, & Tversky, 2011), to investigate whether participants engage in phrase boundary lengthening when self-pacing through musical sequences. When participants used a key press to produce each successive chord of Bach chorales, they dwelled longer on boundary chords than nonboundary chords in both the original chorales and atonal manipulations of the chorales. When a novel musical sequence was composed that controlled for metrical and melodic contour cues to boundaries, the dwell time difference between boundaries and nonboundaries was greater in the tonal condition than in the atonal condition. Furthermore, similar results were found for a group of nonmusicians, suggesting that phrase-final lengthening in musical production is not dependent on musical training and can be evoked by harmonic cues.

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