The effects of context and musical training on auditory temporal-interval discrimination

Karen Banai, Shirley Fisher, Ron Ganot

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Non sensory factors such as stimulus context and musical experience are known to influence auditory frequency discrimination, but whether the context effect extends to auditory temporal processing remains unknown. Whether individual experiences such as musical training alter the context effect is also unknown. The goal of the present study was therefore to investigate the effects of stimulus context and musical experience on auditory temporal-interval discrimination. In experiment 1, temporal-interval discrimination was compared between fixed context conditions in which a single base temporal interval was presented repeatedly across all trials and variable context conditions in which one of two base intervals was randomly presented on each trial. Discrimination was significantly better in the fixed than in the variable context conditions. In experiment 2 temporal discrimination thresholds of musicians and non-musicians were compared across 3 conditions: a fixed context condition in which the target interval was presented repeatedly across trials, and two variable context conditions differing in the frequencies used for the tones marking the temporal intervals. Musicians outperformed non-musicians on all 3 conditions, but the effects of context were similar for the two groups. Overall, it appears that, like frequency discrimination, temporal-interval discrimination benefits from having a fixed reference. Musical experience, while improving performance, did not alter the context effect, suggesting that improved discrimination skills among musicians are probably not an outcome of more sensitive contextual facilitation or predictive coding mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Beverly Wright for helpful discussions of these data, Brian Moore and two anonymous reviewers for comments on a previous version of the manuscript, and Liraz Weissbrod and Oved Izhaki for help with the collection of data for experiment 1. This work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation ( LHSI 1842/07 ) and a Marie Curie fellowship ( IRG 224763 ). Ron Ganot and Shirley Fisher conducted experiment 2 as part of an undergraduate research project mentored by Karen Banai.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems

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