Music perception

W. Jay Dowling

in Oxford Handbook of Auditory Science: Hearing

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199233557
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Music perception

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



Perceiving music leads the brain to combine patterns of features varying on several sensory dimensions at once. This article studies these dimensions one at a time, and sees how they fit together into a meaningful overall pattern. It is a fact that people hear music embedded in a particular culture. The perceptual habits of people have been shaped by the regularities of the music they are used to hearing. Those habits lead them to expect certain continuations of what they are hearing, and so the things that surprise them are determined by what is usually done. The cognitive frameworks for pitch and time, so useful as aids in the understanding of the music heard, are largely culture-specific. It takes considerable perceptual learning with the music of a new culture before people automatically encode the relevant features and contrasts that are built into it, just as it does with language.

Keywords: music; sensory dimension; culture; pitch; time; pattern

Article.  9931 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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