Can training improve performance?

with Charlie Chubb

Can training improve performance in classifying major versus minor tone-scrambles?

The major and minor scales play vital roles in western music; however, many listeners have difficulty discriminating between major vs. minor melodies. Evidence shows that listeners trend to conform to a bimodal distribution where 30% is near-perfect in discrimination, and the other 70% is near-chance, suggesting some listeners may possess a form of scale-sensitivity that cannot be predicted through musical training. Previous behavioral modeling work on how listeners perceive the mode have failed to account for the deviation in the sensitivity to tonality as seen in the tone-scramble task.

Tone-Scramble Stimulus

A tone-scramble is a rapid 2.08s random 32-tone sequence consisting of 8 each of G5’s and G6’s, 8 D6’s, and 8 B6’s or 8 Bb6’s. The tone-scramble task follows a feedback-driven design which allows a listener to utilize any cognitive strategy to make a judgment in assigning major and minor to a stimulus. Thus, using this tool to probe at underlying individual differences within listeners’ sensitivity to tonality opens a new line of questions in music cognition research.

Current Work

This project tested the hypothesis whether all listeners can learn to discriminate the two stimuli over time with a training regimen. Training occurred for one hour each on two consecutive days. Comparison of performance on the pretest and final posttest indicated that for most low-performing listeners, the training regiment produced little to no change in performance. However, for a small number of initially low-performing listeners, the training regimen was highly effective.

Postdoctoral Research Scholar

My research interests include music cognition, neuroscience, and how people hear things differently.