Absolute Tempo Perception of Popular Music

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Absolute tempo perception was investigated using a series of experiments in a 2-interval forced-choice task. Participants were presented selections of highly recognizable hip-hop and rock music samples in matched pairs. Each of the pairs contained one original sample and a second played at a faster or slower rate for a particular musical selection. When the music was familiar, listeners were sensitive to absolute tempo when it varied by as little as 2% or more from the original. Additionally, it was found that faster tempi were more discriminable from an original sample than were equidistant slowed samples. The results were used to suggest the general capacity of this absolute tempo perception, and how this capacity may represent the depth of memory encoding for musical stimuli. Furthermore, the bias that was demonstrated for greater sensitivity to detect a faster tempo may be related to an embodied cognitive representation of temporal processes.

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