Electrophysiological evidence for a two-stage process underlying single chord priming

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In this study, we examine through electrophysiological measures three alternative mechanisms underlying musical chord priming: psychoacoustic distance, common parent-key, and distance along the circle of fifths. In contrast with previous behavioral studies, we present complex tones which do not blur the melodic component, we present various chord arrangements, and we focus on nonmusicians. Target major chords, in three different harmonic conditions (1, 2, and 4 steps along the circle of fifths between prime and target chords), elicited two centro-anterior negativities labeled N5E (early) and N5L (late) suggesting a dissociation between an earlier psychoacoustic process based on pitch commonality and proximity and a later cognitive process based on a common parent-key.

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